I really looked forward to reading Tales of Angria; after all, Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, so surely a collection of stories penned by the same author would be absolutely captivating. Sadly, this is not the case. This early work by Brontė centers on the imaginary African kingdom of Angria, and this collection contains the last five of her Angrian tales. She spent five years writing these tales in collaboration with her brother, Branwell. While some parts of the book were very engaging, much of it was unable to hold my attention.
The narrator of these tales is Charles Townshend, a cynic and gossip who reveals the superficial world of a bunch of snobbish aristocrats. Chief among them is Northangerland, who seems to be at the center of everything that happens in Angria, along with his son-in-law, Duke Zamorna. They figure prominently in every Angrian tale.
The most interesting parts of Tales of Angria revolve around Zamorna and his various infidelities. In the first tale of the book, "Mina Laury," Brontė describes a beautiful young peasant girl who is devoted to Zamorna. She is given an offer of marriage from Lord Hartford, but when Zamorna finds out, he challenges Hartford to a duel, because he cannot allow anyone else to have her even though he is married. The last tale, "Caroline Vernon," focuses on Zamorna's sister-in-law (Northangerland's daughter), a young woman who confesses her passion for the Duke and gets sent away to a secret location where only he has access to her. I found myself engrossed in this particular story but disappointed at the open-ended conclusion.
Probably the biggest problem with reading this book is the footnotes, which are all located at the back of the book. I found them to be so distracting that I eventually ignored them, despite the fact that the footnotes give a lot of historical, cultural or linguistic background on certain aspects of the book. Heather Glen's introduction was too long to hold my interest.
This book also includes some fragments from Brontė's "Roe Head Journal," which gives insight into her life as a schoolteacher and her creative thought processes in crafting Tales of Angria. Bottom line: don't expect this to read like Jane Eyre. But if you are interested in seeing the early work of one of England's great female novelists, and get a glimpse into the inner workings of her mind, pick up this book.