Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, arguably her most famous work (though not her only work), met its first readers in 1847. Now, over a century and a half later, the story of orphaned Jane, Mr. Rochester, and Thornfield Hall is still touching readers everyday.
I didn't read Jane Eyre until I was in college. It was for a special topics course on colonialism in English literature. Throughout the semester we read Heart of Darkness and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart as a pair and then Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea (which is Rhys's story of Mr. Rochester's first wife). Jane Eyre was arguably my favorite read of the semester - the imagery and the gothic tone had me completely enthralled and Jane and her tale kept me reading well beyond the assigned chapters!
This is why, all these years later, I snatch up any and every book inspired by the classic. I can't get enough! And neither can a ton of other readers apparently (did you know today's the book birthday for another Jane Eyre inspired read as well?).
Reader, I Married Him features twenty-one authors' tales - some quite true to the original while others are more farther afield - all in homage to Jane's story. What's amazing about this particular collection is not only how many people the book has obviously impacted, but how very differently it impacts readers - as evidence by how different these tales are from one another. Patricia Park offers up a fish out of water tale about a Korean girl raised in Buenos Aires and transplanted to the Big Apple while Susan Hill offers her take on Wallis Simpson, Helen Dunmore gives readers a look inside Grace Poole's world, and Francine Prose twists Jane and Bertha into a Gaslight sort of parallel. These are just a few of the stories inside, each tantalizingly unique in topic, tone, and even setting.
Here's the full TOC (with links where available):
"My Mother's Wedding" by Tessa Hadley
"Luxury Hour" by Sarah Hall
Sarah Hall – Website | Facebook
"Grace Poole Her Testimony" by Helen Dunmore
Helen Dunmore – Website | Twitter
"Dangerous Dog" by Kirsty Gunn
Kirsty Gunn – Website | Facebook
"To Hold" by Joanna Briscoe
Joanna Briscoe – Website | Twitter
"It's a Man's Life, Ladies" by Jane Gardam
"Since I First Saw Your Face" by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue – Website | Facebook | Twitter
"Reader, I Married Him" by Susan Hill
Susan Hill – Website | Facebook | Twitter
"The Mirror" by Francine Prose
"A Migrating Bird" by Elif Shafak
Elif Shafak – Website | Facebook | Twitter
"Behind the Mountain" by Evie Wyld
Evie Wyld – Website | Facebook | Twitter
"The China From Buenos Aires" by Patricia Park
Patricia Park – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
"Reader, She Married Me" by Salley Vickers
Salley Vickers – Website | Twitter
"Dorset Gap" by Tracy Chevalier
Tracy Chevalier – Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
"Party Girl" by Nadifa Mohamed
Nadifa Mohamed – Twitter
"Transference" by Esther Freud
Esther Freud – Website
"The Mash-Up" by Linda Grant
Linda Grant – Website | Twitter
"The Self-Seeding Sycamore" by Lionel Shriver
Lionel Shriver – Facebook
"The Orphan Exchange" by Audrey Niffenegger
Audrey Niffenegger – Website | Facebook | Twitter
"Double Men" by Namwali Serpell
Namwali Serpell – Website | Twitter
"Robinson Crusoe at the Waterpark" by Elizabeth McCracken
Elizabeth McCracken – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Honestly I'm still a reeling a bit from this collection. I was surprised by just how singular each story was - this shouldn't actually come as that big of a shock, to be honest. Any number of people are all going to have different reactions and revelations about any read and Brontë's is quite exceptional indeed. To have it so displayed in one collection, though, makes it just that much more obvious how different we all are as readers and how those differences affect the influences and take aways from any story!
Now because I'm sure you all love Jane as much as I do, I'm super pleased to be able to offer up not one but two copies of Reader, I Married Him today! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, April 4. Open US only.