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.
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.
The key elements of a successful biopic, especially one where the subjects are legendary in their own right, are as follows: a compelling narrative and adherence to the facts of the subject’s life to engage both the novice viewer and the viewer who is well versed on the subject’s life.
On Sunday night, PBS aired To Walk Invisible, a biopic of the Brontes. The Reverend Patrick Bronte (Jonathan Pryce) is a widower living with his surviving children, who are all grown and seem to be flailing emotionally. The eldest daughter, Charlotte (Finn Atkins) is passionate and ambitious. Branwell, the only boy (Adam Nagaitis) is the ne’er-do-well dreamer with the growing alcohol addiction. Emily (Chloe Pirrie) is as fiery as she is private. The baby of the family, Anne (Charlie Murphy) is the peace maker.
As the sisters work towards their dream of becoming published authors, Branwell descends rapidly into a haze of grief and addiction that will overtake the entire family.
Anyone who knows me (or has read this blog), knows that I worship the literary ground that the Brontes walk on. Their books are nothing short of genius. Unfortunately, I cannot say that same about this television movie. Granted, it is one shot, 2 hour television movie, so for timing reasons, cannot contain every moment of their lives. That’s not my issue.
My issue is that it went a little too fast and the ending felt very abrupt. Certain facts (which I will not mention here due to the fact that they are a little spoiler-y for novice Bronte fans) were not mentioned. Not only that, but the narrative spent too much time on Branwell and not enough time on his sisters, who are the main characters.
Do I recommend it? As much as I would love to say an enthusiastic yes, I can’t. I have to give a mere maybe.
Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Eyre, Television, TV Review, Writing, Wuthering Heights
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.
Last week was not an easy one for me. While I will not go into specifics, I will say that I needed a pick me up. I need something warm and comforting to make me feel better.
I pulled my copy of Jane Eyre from my book shelf. There is nothing like literary comfort food when your feeling down.
I chose Jane Eyre because I needed a reminder that the most important thing we can do for ourselves is remain true to who we are.
I chose Jane Eyre because I was having an underdog moment and I needed the story of another underdog who finds success and love without comprising herself in the process.
I chose Jane Eyre because she had to face her the challenges set before her to reach that happy ending.
I chose Jane Eyre because I needed to be reminded to have faith and to know that things will always work out in the end.
And that is why I re-read Jane Eyre.
For many writers and book lovers, Charlotte Bronte is an icon and a giant. Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette and The Professor have been read, re-read, discussed, argued about and made into film, television and stage productions.
Claire Harman’s new biography, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, takes the reader into the heart, the mind and the psyche of her subject. Charlotte Bronte, like her most famous heroine, Jane Eyre had neither wealth, conventional beauty or status. The daughter of a parson who might have been called eccentric in his own time, Charlotte Bronte lived most of her life in isolated, obscure, Haworth, a small town in Yorkshire. Outside of her family and close friends, few would have guessed that underneath the mask of propriety lurked a woman who felt deeply, loved deeply and held beliefs that contradicted what many Victorians believed to be right and true.
This is not the first biography of Charlotte Bronte that I own. While the facts remain the same, what made this book different is that the world is seen through Charlotte’s eyes. A vibrant, intelligent and thoroughly capable woman stuck in an era when women were supposed to be meek, compliant and hide any sense of intelligence, this book is a reminder of now just how smart and capable Charlotte Bronte truly was.
I absolutely recommend it.
Jane Eyre is a respected classic. Charlotte’s Bronte’s immortal novel of a young woman who is able to rise above the challenges of her early life to find success, love and happiness has appealed to readers for a century and a half.
The Flight Of Gemma Hardy: A Novel by Margot Livesey takes Jane Eyre out of rural Victorian England and takes the story to 1950’s and 1960’s Scotland. Gemma Hardy lost her parents before she could know them. Taken in by her maternal uncle, who has also passed away, Gemma lives with her uncle’s widow and his children, who resent her and abuse her.
At the age of ten, Gemma receives a scholarship to attend school. It appears to be heaven-sent and freedom from the abuse she received from her aunt and cousins. But it turns out that Gemma is not going as a student, but as a maid. Eight years later, the school is bankrupt and she finds work as an au pair for the mysterious Mr. Hugh Sinclair. Mr. Sinclair lives in Blackbird Hall on the remote Orkney Island. Gemma’s charge is Mr. Sinclair’s eight year old niece.
Following the narrative of the original novel, Gemma falls in love with her boss and he with her. But there is a dark secret and a journey that the heroine must go through before she has her happy ending.
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. Jane’s tenacity, strength and courage, when she is abused, mocked and taken advantage of shines through every inch of the book.
On the surface, it’s easy to take a classic and put in another era. The difficulty is to take the heart and soul of the original novel and keep those elements intact while changing the specific details of the era. Unfortunately while the author was able to transport the story and characters to Scotland in the 1950’s and 1960’s, she lost the heart and soul of Jane Eyre.
Do I recommend it? No, not even if you’re a Bronte fan.