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review 2017-06-21 21:25
Mr. Rochester / Sarah Shoemaker
Mr. Rochester - Sarah Shoemaker

"Reader, she married me."

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature's most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker's rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward's eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.

 

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4  on Goodreads because I enjoyed the first half of the book so much. The author remained very true to Brontë’s Jane Eyre and even managed to incorporate aspects of Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. I have to admire that!

The first half of the book, dealing with Edward Fairfax Rochester’s life before he meets his Jane, was the most enjoyable for me. I loved the back-story that Ms. Shoemaker created for him—the vulnerable, sensitive little boy who missed his mother and was ignored by his father. She obviously spent a great deal of time on the question, “What made Mr. Rochester into the man who met Jane Eyre?”

Once Jane appears in this text, however, there are constraints. You don’t mess with the Jane Eyre story, after all. For me, things changed at this point. Instead of the colourful, free painting that Shoemaker began with, she was reduced to paint-by-number. She introduced some interesting ideas that aren’t in Brontë’s original, but then has to wrap them up swiftly and neatly in order to fit into the accepted canon.

In short, very true to the original work and another interesting look at an old favourite.

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review 2017-06-12 19:56
Jane Steele / Lyndsey Faye
Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye

Reader, I murdered him.

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?

 

Reader, we were amused.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics. It seems to appeal to a wide range of people and it also seems to inspire a number of authors. I’ve read Wide Sargasso Sea, The Lost Child, and Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters and enjoyed all of them. But Jane Steele was the most fun of them all.

Imagine if you will a young woman in similar circumstances as Jane Eyre, with a copy of the book in her hand, as she murders her way out of her problems. In this version, Jane gets rid of the nasty aunt, the abusive cousin, the skeezy schoolmaster, the violent landlord and still finds the Englishman-with-secrets of her dreams.

My second encounter with Lyndsay Faye and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would also recommend Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson, also set in Victorian London, a place & time that Faye seems to have great feeling for.

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review 2016-06-13 21:50
Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. But soon after their marriage, rumors of madness in her family poison his mind against her. He forces Antoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals.

 

The accepted wisdom of writing is to “write what you know.” And Jean Rhys knew the Caribbean area, about being a woman there, and about the effects of colonialism. Like Bertha Mason/Antoinette Cosway (the future madwoman in Mr. Rochester’s attic in Jane Eyre), she was a Creole woman from Dominica and she led a difficult life when she was sent to school in England. Did she feel like she belonged in neither the Caribbean culture nor in England, perhaps feeling mired in the seaweed of the Sargasso Sea which separates the two areas? Rhys certainly knew poverty, alcoholism, and struggling to survive in a system which favours men.

The heat of the tropical location matches well with the heated nature of Antoinette’s relationship with Rochester and contrasts nicely with the coldness so evident in Jane Eyre in both climate and people. Rochester, being young and used to emotionally controlled, cooler English women, has no idea how to deal with her. He truly only wants her money, not her person, so he uses his Victorian male prerogative to declare her mad, to change her name to Bertha, to force her to move to England and to be confined to the attic. She is in practical terms owned by Rochester, just as any slave would be, by virtue of having married him, despite where she may fall along the white/black continuum (too white to fit in to Caribbean society, not quite white enough for England).

Who wouldn’t go mad under those conditions?

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text 2016-05-06 20:50
The Lost Child / Caryl Phillips
The Lost Child: A Novel - Caryl Phillips

Caryl Phillips's The Lost Child is a sweeping story of orphans and outcasts, haunted by the past and fighting to liberate themselves from it. At its center is Monica Johnson—cut off from her parents after falling in love with a foreigner—and her bitter struggle to raise her sons in the shadow of the wild moors of the north of England. Phillips intertwines her modern narrative with the childhood of one of literature's most enigmatic lost boys, as he deftly conjures young Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Wuthering Heights, and his ragged existence before Mr. Earnshaw brought him home to his family.

The Lost Child is a multifaceted, deeply original response to Emily Bronte's masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. A critically acclaimed and sublimely talented storyteller, Caryl Phillips is "in a league with Toni Morrison and V. S. Naipaul" (Booklist) and "his novels have a way of growing on you, staying with you long after you've closed the book." (The New York Times Book Review) A true literary feat, The Lost Child recovers the mysteries of the past to illuminate the predicaments of the present, getting at the heart of alienation, exile, and family by transforming a classic into a profound story that is singularly its own.

 

Lost boys. And I’m not talking vampires or Peter Pan, but truly lost children.

An interesting book to read beside and following Lullabies for Little Criminals. Both books examine the situation of the child from an unprivileged upbringing, but I found that LfLC left me with a more hopeful feeling.

This book was Bronte inspired—there are chapters re-imagining the situation of Heathcliff and there is one chapter devoted to Emily and Charlotte. It examines hardship from three directions, really. The hardship of the poor clergyman’s children, struggling to make ends meet and survive on the moors. (By all accounts, the Bronte daughters despised teaching children, the only option besides writing that was available to them). Their brother, Branwell, is depicted as lost in alcoholism and ill health.

Then there is the story of Monica and her two sons, Ben and Tommy. This is the meat of the book, as an increasingly erratic and alcoholic mother loses her sons even while she is living with them (one literally, one emotionally). Their father, from some unnamed Caribbean country, leaves them only their mixed-racial heritage and some talent for football and is also a “lost boy” in some regards.

Combining the two are the chapters featuring Heathcliff, the abandoned child—also with dark skin & hair, rejected for his ethnicity. Mistreated by the family he is adopted into after his sponsor’s death, just as Ben and Tommy are bullied by the fortunate children in school. Emily’s obsession, even as she sinks away towards her death.

This novel is dark and brooding as the moors that Wuthering Heights is famous for. And although there seems to be some prospect of escape for those who remain, the survivors are few.

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review 2014-01-21 21:42
Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës - A.J. Ashworth,Vanessa Gebbie,Zoë King,Felicity Skelton,Tania Hershman,Simon Armitage,Sarah Dobbs,David Rose,David Constantine,Bill Broady,Rowena Macdonald,Elizabeth Baines,Carys Davies,Alison Moore

Red Room - New Stories Inspired by the Brontes.

 

Unthank Books

 

4 of 5 stars

 

I was provided with a copy of this book from the publishers in return for an honest review.

This is a collection of short stories written by award winning short story authors. Each writer was asked to create a story inspired by the works of the Brontes. A percentage of the profits are being donated by Unthank books to The Bronte Birthplace Trust who aim to save the birthplace of the Brontes, in Thornton, Bradford. Each of the authors featured provided their work for no fee.

 

The blurb at the back can best describe the contents of the anthology." The Collection features a demon sheep, strange curates, acts of rebellion and acts of violence. There is love made and love ruined, parents lost and children found. A girl's controlling step-father gets more than he bargained for while out on a picnic. A troubled man finds comfort in the poetry of Emily Bronte during his wife's illness. A woman stumbles across a French officer while walking and returns home with a secret."

 

The little book had sat shamefully neglected on my TBR for some time. Yesterday I decided to pick it up and only put it down because sleep beckoned. This is a beautiful collection of short stories covering a wide variety of themes, yet all brought together by the inspiration of the Bronte sisters. If you have not read anything by Charlotte, Emily or Anne Bronte don't let this put you off the book. All the tales contained in it are well worth a read.

 

One or two of the stories stick out as particular favourites, imaginary correspondence between two fictional heroines  and the one that will remain with me for a long time, Ashton and Elaine, a beautiful story of a mute boy and his foster sister.

 

I would recommend this anthology to any lover of short stories. If you've yet to fall for the charm of short pieces of fiction then this is a wonderful place to start.

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