*The videos below contain spoilers. Read and watch at your own risk if you have not read the books or watched any of the dramatizations.
One of my favorite things about Jane Austen’s novels is that her narratives and characters are universal. Despite being set in a specific time and place, it doesn’t take much to grasp the worlds she created in her books.
One of the more unique examinations of classic literature is the video series Thug Notes. Their latest video is an examination of Emma.
The thing that I take away every time I see one of these videos is that I am reminded why certain books are still read and cherished. These videos are also very funny, illuminating and well worth watching.
P.S. if you liked the video above, you should check out their Jane Eyre and Pride And Prejudice videos.
It’s not uncommon that women and men are still judged differently. Men have friends, have pals. They have an easy comradery. There is no backstabbing, no “frenemies”, no one clamoring to steal their friend’s spotlight or significant other. Women on the other hand, have been accusing of backstabbing, of gossiping and basically tearing their so-called “friends” apart.
The new book, A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney is about four legendary female writers whose friendships with other female writers helped them to succeed in the world of literature. Jane Austen palled around with Anne Sharp, who was the governess in her wealthy brother’s house. One of Charlotte Bronte’s lifelong best friends was her schoolmate, Mary Taylor. George Eliot spoke of writing and life with fellow controversial Victorian novelist, Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of the then infamous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin). And finally, Virginia Woolf had a co-writer and friend in Katherine Mansfield.
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because not only did it remind me of the power of female friendship, it also reminded me of the power of female friendship when it comes to writing. I will warn, however, that to truly appreciate this novel, the reader needs to be aware of the life and work of the book’s subjects.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Today I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
A prequel to Jane Eyre, it was published in the 1930’s. Taking place years before Jane Eyre meets Edward Rochester, the focus of the book is Antoinette Cosway, who is known to readers of Jane Eyre as Bertha Rochester, Mr. Rochester’s mad first wife. Antoinette Cosway and Edward Rochester are equally sold in the name of marriage. She is an heiress and he is a younger son in need of a wealthy wife.
What starts out as a story of young love turns into a story of vengeance, hate, mental illness and male power. If Bertha Rochester was Charlotte Bronte’s inner scream against the constraints that women were kept in during the 19th century, then Antoinette Cosway enlarges and opens up that inner scream.
I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea not only because today is National Book Lovers Day, but because the book publicly exposes the double standard that women have become the norm for women over the centuries.
Today I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea.
Among the three Bronte sisters, Emily, the second to youngest was the most introspective and private. Her social circle was limited to her family, her close friends and her animals. She rarely traveled outside of her hometown of Haworth, England. She was not concerned with being fashionable or climbing the social ladder. Her sole completed novel, Wuthering Heights is one of the most respected and admired novels in the English language.
Jane Eagland’s 2015 novel, The World Within: A Novel of Emily Brontë, takes place when Emily is a teenager. Her widowed father, Patrick is doing his best to raise his children with the help of his sister-in-law. The Bronte children have created stories over the years about vast and imaginative lands with colorful characters. But life is beginning to change, as it must.
Patrick gets sick and there is a concern about what will happen if he does not survive. The sisters realize that they must learn to fend for themselves. But the question is, how will they learn to fend themselves with no dowry, no connections, no income and limited professional opportunities that does not include marriage?
Among the Bronte sisters, Emily is the most fascinating. She was passionate, opinionated and fiery. And yet under the mask of the quiet Parson’s daughter, few knew who she really was. As a reader, a writer and a fan of the Brontes, it’s always interesting to learn what events and experiences shaped them into the women we know them to be today. The question is then, can a modern writer truly find their way into Emily’s life and psyche to write a novel about Emily Bronte before she became the giant of literature that we know her to be today?
On a scale of 1-10, 10 meaning the book was superb and 1 being that the book is horrible, I would give the book a rating of 5. It was ok, but it was a bit slow in the beginning and I struggled to stay focused on the story during parts of the narrative.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Readers of Charlotte Bronte’s immortal book, Jane Eyre have been in love with her leading man, Edward Rochester for more a century. One moment he is brooding, Byronic and mysterious. The next moment he is vulnerable and open in his feelings about Jane. But Jane Eyre is told through Jane’s perspective and we only see Mr. Rochester through her eyes.
Sarah Shoemaker’s new novel, Mr. Rochester, is a first person account of the events in Jane Eyre as told from the perspective of Edward Rochester. The readers first meets Edward Rochester as an eight year old boy. His mother died in childbirth, his father is emotionally distant and his elder brother, Rowland is not above hitting or verbally abusing Edward. Sent to school and then to work in the office of a factory, he grows up, slowly becomes the man who Jane meets on that cold wintry night on the road to Thornfield.
I really liked this book. What I liked about it was that Ms. Shoemaker rose to the very daunting task of re-creating the world of Jane Eyre while putting her own spin on the cannon narrative of the novel. The challenge for any writer re-writing a beloved novel is to write the story that not only feels right to them, but also easily exists within the world of the original novel. While some writers try and unfortunately fail in this quest, Ms. Shoemaker succeeds.
I absolutely recommend it.
Jane Eyre is one of those books that does not need an introduction. Originally published in 1847, it has been revered, admired, criticized, reviewed, argued about and adapted/rebooted, for better or for worse since then.
The most recent literary reboot of Jane Eyre is Jane Steele, by Lynsday Faye. The overall narrative of Jane Steele closely resembles it’s predecessor. Jane is orphaned young, abused by the relations forced to take her in, sent away to be educated at a school where the headmaster is less than ideal and grows up to be a governess who falls in love with her employer.
When I saw the book originally, I was intrigued by the concept. While Jane Steele is not a straight up reboot of Jane Eyre (the main character has read Jane Eyre, there are striking similarities between the two characters), it has enough of the Bronte cannon to please fans who prefer the original text. While I appreciated the author’s attention to period details,the injection of the Sikh culture and the other changes made to shake up the familiar narrative, I just felt like I was forcing myself to finish the book.
Do I recommend it? As much as I would like to say that I did, I can’t say that. I don’t recommend it.
A good biopic is hard to come by. On one hand, it has to be true to the real life subjects that are being portrayed on-screen. But, on the other hand, it must be entertaining and keep the audience engaged.
To Walk Invisible is the new biopic based on the life Emily, Anne and Charlotte Bronte. Stepping into the roles of the the legendary sisters are Charlie Murphy (Anne Bronte), Chloe Pirrie (Emily Bronte) and Finn Atkins (Charlotte Bronte). Playing their widower father Patrick is Jonathan Pryce and their brilliant but drug addicted brother, Branwell is Adam Nagaitis.
While there is no official air date in the US (it premieres in the UK on December 29th), I have a feeling the bookworms, anglophiles and Bronte fans will be pleased with this fictional imaging of the three of the world’s greatest authors.
You know you’re a writer when your usual mode of writing is not available and the writing wind is knocked out of your sails.
Some of my regular readers may have noticed that I have been largely silent over the past two weeks.
I wish I could say that it was because I was occupied with my other writing projects, but I was not.
My computer died and I had no choice, but to get a new one. It was time, but I didn’t expect to need it so soon.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but I think we are loath to admit that we need it more than we think do.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I am back and I am ready to ready to get back to work.
As one of my favorite writers, Charlotte Bronte once said:
I am just going to write, because I cannot help it.
Now back to writing.
As a writer and a reader, Charlotte Bronte is one of my idols.In her time, her life was small and unremarkable. In our time, she is a giant, worthy of our respect and admiration.
The Morgan Library And Museum’s newest exhibit, Charlotte Bronte: An Independent Will, is all about Charlotte Bronte, her family, her writing and her life.
I loved this exhibit. It’s small, but as a Bronte fan, it’s electrifying. From the dress borrowed from the UK to the Bronte juvenalia written in tiny books I was thrilled to be in the presence of greatness.
I recommend it.
Charlotte Bronte: An Independent Will is at The Morgan Library And Museum until January 2nd, 2017.
In their lifetimes, Emily, Anne and Charlotte Bronte wereally considered to be unremarkable, with one exception. Their writing was remarkable.
In 1994, Juliet Barker published The Brontes Wild Genius On The Moors: The Story Of A Literary Family. In 2010, the book was re-released and updated with new information that was not contained within the original volume.
The book starts as it should with the Bronte patriarch, Patrick. It also ends with him, as the sole surviving Bronte. He buried his wife and six children, not knowing that his youngest daughters would live forever through their writing. His son, Branwell, was equally as brilliant as his sisters, but was unfortunately felled by an alcohol addiction.
I really liked this book. As a Bronte fan, I knew much of the information that was contained within the book. But what Ms. Barker has brilliantly done is add new material while properly telling the story of the Brontes.
I recommend it.