Reviews of Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family
Make no mistake that Kendall’s book is a controversial one, but it’s also complex and highly debatable. I’ve got a feeling that Lies and the Brontës is going to be an endlessly discussed book for years to come.
– New Welsh Review
[a] big, beguiling book […] I have really enjoyed it immensely. There is something strangely hypnotic about the whole narrative, especially the early Welsh wanderings (the magic Ystrad Meurig! the bamboozled school inspectors!), and the later (brilliantly detailed and gossipy) re-creation of domestic life in mid 19th-century Brussels. […] Rev. Evan is a kind of unsung hero (‘a cakes and ale man’). […] A special delight is the sudden flashing up of other, unexpected lives: Coleridge, of course, and Mrs Gaskell; but also Captain Marryat, or Trollope, or Wellington, or naughty John Wordsworth, or King Leopold, or Tennyson (with his snake).
– Richard Holmes, the foremost biographer of Shelley and Coleridge, author of The Age of Wonder and Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer
Lies and the Brontës: The Quest for the Jenkins Family is a masterpiece, setting the record straight for the life and times of the Anglican Clergy in Brussels in the 19th century. Her extensive and thorough research has cleared up a number of ambiguities and misapprehensions in the recording of those times and has been an invaluable resource.
– Roger Cox, Anglicans in Brussels, 3rd edition
The Brontë sisters had known [Monica Kendall’s] ancestors! The realisation was the starting point of the quest which seven years later resulted in this amazing book […] The research trail is fascinating in itself. For anyone interested in family history, the notes alone tell an eloquent tale of riches unearthed in archives from Lambeth Palace to Leuven. But Kendall’s pursuit of the Jenkins family was emotional as much as scholarly […] the rewards of the book far outweigh any feelings of embarras de richesses and interest is maintained by the lively writing as well as the erudition. Lies and the Brontës is packed with information, anecdotes and above all personalities. A ‘spider’s web of connections’ between apparently disparate lives constantly comes up with surprises, including many famous names […]
Lies and the Brontës casts the net wide and encompasses much more than Evan and Eliza’s story, but they are at its heart and the book is a testament that Kendall’s quest was worth the years of labour. The Jenkinses […] and their circle do deserve to be better known. By the time I finished the book I, like Kendall, would have liked to be invited for Sunday lunch at the Jenkinses’ house in Ixelles, listening to the gossip about the expat British community of which the Brontë sisters were so briefly a part, hearing the fiacres Charlotte describes in Villette rattling over the stony streets outside.
– Helen MacEwan, author, and founder of the Brussels Brontë Group
The full review can be read here Welcome – The Brussels Brontë Group (thebrusselsbrontegroup.org)
See also Helen MacEwan’s five-star review on Amazon UK.
Fans of Trollope or the Brontë sisters might be tempted to dive straight into chapters twelve, thirteen and fourteen of this book, in which their favourite authors make their [major] appearances. However, to do this, and leap straight into the city of Brussels in the 1830s and 1840s and its population of expatriate Brits, many of whom, like the Trollopes, had fled to the continent to avoid debts accrued in the UK, is to miss out on a fascinating tale of not only the Jenkins family and the society in which they and the authors moved, but also of the pains of the researcher attempting to uncover the history submerged beneath the myths that had accumulated around the famous writers […]
[T]he book’s narrative uncovers mercantile shenanigans in Edinburgh, the life of a student at Cambridge in the early 19th century – yes, there was a lot of drinking and sex back then too […] and the internecine struggles of the various factions of the Anglican clergy […] I am sorely tempted to wonder if descriptions of the vicious in-fighting revealed here might have reached the ears of the young Anthony [Trollope] to be recalled years later and reproduced in his Barchester novels.
– Mark Green, Trollopiana: The Journal of the Trollope Society, no. 119, summer 2021; Join the Trollope Society to see the whole review.