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.
Based on the books by Winston Graham and a reboot of the original 1970’s miniseries, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) has just returned from fighting for the British in the American Revolution. The reception that he received was unexpected. His father is dead, his home is in ruins and his sweetheart, Elizabeth (Heida Reed) is engaged to Ross’s cousin Francis (Kyle Soller). The economy is in a depression and Ross has to find a new way to revitalize his land and the lives of his tenants. When Ross rescues Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) from a beating, he expects to see a young boy under the rags. He finds a woman who is escaping a brutal home life. Offering Demelza the position of kitchen maid, Ross does not know that his life might just turn around in more ways that one.
I have not seen the original miniseries, but it’s fabled lore continues 40 years after it’s initial airing. Ross Poldark might not be Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester, but he comes pretty close to that stature. I know I am going to enjoy the series.
The Crimson Field is the story of three young women who have volunteered as nurses at a hospital in Northern France during World War I. Kitty (Oona Chaplin), Rosalie (Marianne Oldham) and Flora (Alice St. Clair) have no idea what they are getting into when they signed up to volunteer. They will quickly learn the brutality of war and the hard decisions that must be made. Lt. Col Roland Brett (Downton Abbey’s Kevin Doyle) is the head of the camp who goes against a superior’s orders to send a young soldier home who is suffering from what we now know is PTSD. Matron Grace Carter (Hermoine Norris) is tough on the new recruits, but she has her own story to tell.
I didn’t enjoy this program as much as I did Poldark. I couldn’t keep up as well with the characters. But for history buffs and people like me who are suffering from Downton withdrawal, it’s not all that bad.
We all need heroes in our lives. They are the ones that we admire. We aspire to follow in their footsteps.
Kate Zambreno’s 2012 book, Heroines, is about the female authors who overcame the title of “female author”, to become successful in their own right.
The origins of the book come from the author’s blog, started on December 31st, 2009. Entitled Frances Farmer Is My Sister, Ms. Zambreno wrote about authors such as Jean Rhys and Zelda Fitzgerald. These women, whose abilities as writers equaled the male writers around them, were only thought to be muses. Because they were women, no one believed that they could write as well as a man. They were silenced, institutionalized and erased (thankfully for us, only temporarily) from literary history.
The format of this book is not written in the traditional format. Retaining the blog style of writing, the author lays out the difficulties that previous generations of female writers had to overcome. One of the qualities of the book that caught me off guard was how angry I got. Zelda Fitzgerald is not just the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was a brilliant writer in her own right. Jean Rhy’s novel, Wide Sargasso Sea is the highly acclaimed and respected prequel to Jane Eyre. She dared to flesh out the character of Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s first wife. In Jane Eyre, Bertha Rochester is a one dimensional madwoman who nearly kills her husband and burns Thornfield to the ground. Jean Rhys made Bertha an empathetic character whom the reader feels for because of the circumstances forced upon her.
Gloria Steinem once said the following:
The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.
This book pissed me off. But it also set me free. This is one of best feminist non-fiction books that I have ever read and I highly recommend it.
If one were to judge Jane Eyre simply by her early life, one might say that she is doomed to be unlucky and unhappy. Jane is orphaned as a baby and raised in her deceased uncle’s home by an aunt who despises her. At the age of ten, she is taken to Lowood school, a charity school where the students are receiving subpar treatment. Eight years later, Jane leaves Lowood to work for the enigmatic and mysterious Mr. Rochester as the governess for his ward, Adele.
Charlotte Bronte’s classic 1847 novel has been remade on screen multiple times over the years. In this post, I’m going to write about my favorite Jane Eyre adaptations and let you decide which among the three is your favorite. The criteria for comparison remain as is:
How closely the screenplay mirrors the novel.
The chemistry between the actors, especially the potential love interests.
The age of the actors, if they are close enough in age to the character to be believable in the part.
If the locations chosen to film resemble the scenes from the book.
Cast: Jane Eyre (Sorcha Cusack), Mr. Rochester (Michael Jayston)
Pro’s: This TV adaption is the truest of any of the filmed adaptations. It’s as if Charlotte Bronte was somehow in the room with the production team. It is flawless, the actors are perfect in their parts. In short, I have nothing but praise for this adaptation.
Cons: The only con that I can think of is that it is 41 years old. It looks 41 years old.
Cast: Jane Eyre (Ruth Wilson), Mr. Rochester (Toby Stephens)
Pro’s: Another flawless production. Sandy Welch’s screen play mirrors the novel. Wilson and Stephens have it, whatever it is, that actors have when they are playing certain characters. They are on fire on screen. The viewer (especially this viewer) has the feeling that when this mini-series is over, Jane and Edward will have a very happy life together, in and out of the bedroom.
Cast: Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska), Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender)
Pro’s: Director Cary Fukanaga and screenwriter Moira Buffini take an unorthodox approach to story telling. The movie starts half way through the novel, after Jane has left Thornfield. The casting of Wasikowska and Fassbender was a brilliant choice. Both age appropriate, they are perfectly cast in their parts.
Cons: It is a movie vs. a mini-series, so not everything from the book got into the movie. But I’m pretty satisfied with this adaptation.