*Spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk if you are a newbie to the novel or its various screen reboots.
There is a reason that Jane Eyre has been given the label of a “classic novel”. Charlotte Bronte‘s story of a young woman who defies all odds and creates her own happiness is a tale that we can all learn from.
The 1997 TV movie stars Samantha Morton as the title character and Ciaran Hinds as Edward Rochester, Jane’s mysterious employer, and love interest. As in the novel, Jane is an orphaned young woman who must make her own way in the world. Employed by Rochester as the governess to his ward, their attraction is electric. But he has a past that she knows nothing of. If it is revealed, the truth could endanger their future together.
There is one scene that rubs me the wrong way. After it is revealed that Rochester is married, he tries to convince Jane to stay. Hinds is a little too physically rough on Jane as the character for me.
As much as many of us love our classic novels, there are often problematic elements that were not considered to be problematic at the time of publishing. It is only in hindsight (and modern eyes) that we can see that these elements require a second look.
I enjoyed this book. Kiste takes two characters who have been written off by most readers and have given them the voice that they were initially denied. Granted, the original texts were written in the 19th century, when women lived more restricted lives than they do today.
What sold it for me was that Bertha and Lucy are more the victims that they were made out to be. Kiste has given them agency, and the will to survive when their individual trauma could have easily destroyed them.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Reluctant Immortals is available wherever books are sold.
We all have secrets and we all have parts of our past that we would prefer to forget. That does not mean, however that life will allow us to.
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel, by Rachel Hawkins was published at the end of last year. Orphaned at an early age and raised in the foster care system, Jane Bell learned early that survival is the top priority. Now in her early twenties, she has recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and earns her living by walking the dogs of the super-wealthy. She also adds to her pocketbook by pocketing trinkets and other small pieces that none of her employers will miss.
Things change for Jane when she meets Eddie Rochester, a thirty-something widower. Surrounding Eddie is the mysterious death of his late wife, Bea, and her best friend. After running into each other, he asks Jane to go out with him. She says yes. Within the blink of an eye, she has moved into his house and they are engaged.
But things are not what they seem. Jane’s past seems to be catching up to her. Though Bea is physically gone, she is ever-present. Will they have their happily ever after or will their mutual literal ghosts come back to haunt them?
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The logline is Jane Eyre meets Rebecca in modern-day Alabama. It is delicious, it is thrilling, romantic, sexy, and an absolute must-read.
Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.
Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.
This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.
A honeymoon is more than the first time that the newlyweds can have sexual relations without the naysayers putting their two cents in. It is a vacation that gives them the opportunity to break from the stress of the wedding, life, and the daily annoyances that are too easy to complain about.
Nevertheless, they did go ahead with their nuptials, which was then followed by a month long trip traveling through Ireland and meeting Arthur’s family. What starts out as a gamble for Charlotte, who by then was in her late 30’s and was convinced that she would never marry, turns into an unexpected love for her new husband.
As a Bronte devotee, I loved this book. The details are fantastic. It was as if I was there with them. Clooney takes us into a part of Charlotte’s story that is often glossed over or not given the spotlight that it should. I will warn that this story is not for the Bronte neophyte. The ideal reader is someone who has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of these women, their lives, and writing.
My only complaint is that the figurative editorial red pen appeared far too much for my taste. When I am reading for pleasure, I don’t want to be thinking about what I would fix, if I was the author.
A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.
There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.
I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.
When Patrick Bronte died in 1861, he was the last surviving member of his immediate family. Outliving his wife and all six of his children, his legacy would have faded into history if not for the extraordinary books of his three youngest daughters.
Though history tells us that Patrick died without any descendants, author Catherine Lowell asks what if someone living today could claim otherwise. In her 2016 book, The Madwoman Upstairs, Samantha Whipple is an American woman raised in Boston who can make this kind of statement. Raised by her late unconventional father after her parent’s divorce, many believe that she has access to a treasure trove of previously unseen materials created by her ancestors. But Samantha has no knowledge of these artifacts and believes them to be fiction. When she enrolls at Oxford University, clues begin to confirm that what Samantha believes to myth is fact. Working with a handsome professor who she gets along with like oil and water, the mystery of her birthright starts to reveal itself.
I loved the first half of the book. There are plenty of Easter eggs to please the most ardent of Bronte fans. I will warn that the reader should go into the novel with at least some knowledge of their life and work. Otherwise many of the details of the plot will go over their heads. The problem is the second half. The unraveling of the truth is not as exciting as it could be. Neither is “romance” between Samantha and her professor. The sisters are known for heart pounding, blood pumping sexuality (Charlotte and Emily to be specific. Anne‘s novels are not as highly charged in that manner). There is no chemistry between the characters, nor do I believe that in their happily ever after.
Cross-class romantic relationships are one of the basic narratives with the romance genre. The key for success is for the narrative to stand out from the pack.
The Cook of Castamar premiered recently on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name by Fernando Muñez, it is the story of unlikely love. In the early 18th century, Diego de Castamar, Duke of Castamar (Roberto Enriquez) is a widowed aristocrat who lost his pregnant wife when her horse threw her over. Spending nearly two years grieving her unexpected death, he is brought back to life by the exquisite meals of his new cook, who he starts to fall for. Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) has a talent for creating food that memories are made of. She is also agoraphobic and still reeling from her father’s execution. It is an attraction that neither saw coming.
The concept this series was impossible to ignore. I loved the idea of court intrigue, sex used as a tool to gain or maintain power, and a blossoming love that is not exactly welcomed. I also appreciated that the extra narrative layer created by the female lead’s mental illness. It is rarely seen in this genre. Unfortunately, it did not live up to it’s promise. I was waiting for a Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester spark which never materialized. After watching a few episodes, I gave up. The slow burn was too slow for me.
Do I recommend it? Not really.
The Cook of Castamar is available for streaming onNetflix.
It takes a brave or naïve person (or both) to step out of the boundaries that the world around them has created. This person knows that when they start to think for themselves, there is a potential firestorm of naysayers and finger pointing. But they do it anyway.
I loved this book. The artwork is beautiful, the description of the subjects are beautifully written. It made we want to learn more about these women and continue to work towards the day when my writing will be as good and inspiring as theirs.