Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life by Lyndall Gordon Virago, HK$136 Those readers who reckon there are more than enough titles about the sisters and bad brother Branwell will probably shy away from this biography, which would be a shame. Lyndall Gordon, author of well-regarded biographies of Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf, proves again her skill in telling the stories that make up a life. Her Charlotte, however, is not the woman others have depicted. The way Gordon sees it, she was certainly not the victim portrayed by novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (Charlotte's father commissioned her to write a biography of his daughter after she died of an intestinal infection, aged 39 and only nine months after her wedding). Close readings of Jane Eyre and Villette, Gordon shows, reveal much about not only Charlotte but also the men with whom she had serious relationships: Constantin Heger (a schoolmaster) and George Smith (a publisher), both of whom were mentors and muses. In marrying a man her intellectual inferior, the curate Arthur Nicholls, Charlotte chose life as opposed to literature and physical rather than cerebral passion. Which indicates, Gordon argues persuasively, that instead of having life happen to her Charlotte grasped it with both hands.