Reader, I Married Him – Stories inspired by Jane Eyre Edited by Tracy Chevalier

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This book of short stories “Inspired by Jane Eyre” is a feast for those who love Jane Eyre, appreciate short stories, and enjoy spotting authors, some well – known, some not, having a good time. Some of these stories by women are more linked to Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece, than others. All the stories are worth reading, though personal preference will determine favourite stories.

Twenty one authors, including Susan Hill, Salley Vickers and Emma Donoghue, were all keen, according to Chevalier’s Introduction, to contribute a story. She writes “You do not need to know Jane Eyre to enjoy these stories, but if you do those resonances will make you smile”. Marriage, relationships and all sorts of revelations dominate this collection which will not surprise anyone familiar with the source novel. Some stories, such as Vickers’ “Reader, She Married Me” tells the story from Rochester’s point of view, and Helen Dunmore’s tells the tale from Grace Poole’s testimony. As with many of these sort of versions of well – known novels, notably Austen’s, they are clever retellings of a story which often brings out aspects of characters that had not been previously obvious. Many of these stories show regret and sadness, though some reveal the joy of relationships suddenly discovered. There is much to hold the stories together, though no two stories are so alike as to be tedious. Obviously some writers handle the short story form better than others; some are already known for collections of their own stories, whereas some feel unfinished and not so satisfactory. One or two could be the start of novels in their own right, and the characters are full of their own ideas. Susan Hill’s is a surprise, as a real person from recent history justifies her actions.

There are many reasons to read this book, as the authors recount their own history with Jane Eyre. Some have obviously been profoundly affected by Charlotte Bronte’s work, others admit to never having read the novel. This is a discovery for admirers of Jane Eyre, and for anyone who enjoys the short story form with a common theme. Chevalier’s own fondness for the work of all the sisters emerges clearly in her editor’s role, and yet it is more than another biography or rewrite of one of the favourite books in English literature.

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7 thoughts on “Reader, I Married Him – Stories inspired by Jane Eyre Edited by Tracy Chevalier

  1. I’m not a great lover of the Brontës, somthis probably isn’t for me, but your mention of the many Austen retelling, plus the fact that I am re-reading one of her earlier children’s books reminded me of the half dozen novels that Joan Aiken wrote extending the lives of Austen characters. Do you know them? ‘Jane Fairfax’ is particularly interesting.

    1. I am a great fan of Austen rewrites, even the some what less than brilliant ones! I think I may have a Aiken rewrite somewhere; I must find it.The one I read, loved and reviewed on this blog is “Old Friends and New Fancies” by Sybil Brinton. It is an early attempt to match characters from all of Austen’s novels to a new story, and is a truly good read.

  2. I usually don’t post bad reviews. I will not post this bad review on Amazon since I don’t want to interfere with sales of even a very bad book. But I am posting it here because I am furious. This book is not only bad. It is a fraud. Using a line from Jane Eyre, and pretending that the book has something to do with Jane Eyre, made me buy it on false pretenses; it has nothing at all to do with the great work of Charlotte Bronte. Just because the word “married” appears in a story, it does not make a shallow, boring, badly written one any closer to the artistry of Charlotte Bronte.

    The collection is made up of mostly modern romances. If I wanted to read modern romances, I would buy them. I bought this book because I thought it was truly a follow-up, in some form, of Jane Eyre. But even the two stories that are mentioning her name are so atrocious, there are no words to describe them. Grace Poole’s story reveals the fact that the author did not remember much of the storyline or the characters in Jane Eyre. Perhaps it was a feeble attempt to imitate the Wide Sargasso Sea? Making Jane into a villain, Rochester a wimp, Grace a Florence Nightingale, and Bertha a saint did not make much sense. And the modern take on the married life of Jane and Rochester (I already forgot the name of the story, but it something to do with mirrors) is a mockery. A middle school writing exercise would be better. How could it be included in a serious anthology is a mystery to me. I have never seen anything so unprofessional published in a real book.

    Dear Northen Reader, how could you? Is the “editor” of this collection a good friend of yours, and you felt you wanted to do her a favor, on the readers’ expense? You often give excellent reviews, but with this book, you lost your credibility. What possessed you to recommend this travesty? I am seriously considering canceling my subscription.

    1. How strange, Ilil – I loved this collection and was impressed by the inspiration which the power of Charlotte Bronte’s imagination has created. I wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole if I’d thought it was a follow-on, as I loathe them and refuse to read them!

      I think your reference to Jules’s possible bias in reviewing is unfortunate to say the least. Such things happen all the time in our national press – and are frequently castigated in Private Eye! – but I doubt very much if that has happened here.

  3. HIlary, thank you for answering my comment. Even if we disagree, it’s always nice to discuss.

    To continue, if I were a politically correct person, and less angry about this book, I would say here: “to each her own” and finish with it. But I am not PC and I am still mad about this book, so here is what I think.

    First of all, I stand behind my “unfortunate” reference — these things happen all the time. People are asked to review friends’ work and often succumb to the desire to help this friend in a “harmless” way. I can’t see any other reason why an intelligent reviewer could possibly think that this book has merit.

    As for the book being inspired by Charlotte Bronte — how can you say that? The entire premise of the book is destroyed by the three stories based directly on Jane Eyre. Have you read “Reader, She Married Me?” I was disgusted by this one. Rochester being dragged into an unwanted marriage with Jane? Rochester still half in love with Bertha? And the end of that story, where the scheming, nasty Jane is writing her false recording of the events, sure to be published because of the high sensationalism of the content? Do you know ANYTHING about the 18th and 19th centuries? Mrs. Rochester, wealthy, married to a landowner, highly placed in society, disgracing her husband’s name by telling his most intimate secrets? Poor Rochester, writing his own sad description, showing the world what a wimp he is? Please. A 19th-century husband would simply forbid his wife from publishing the book. I could go on and destroy every line in the story, but it would take all night and I have a deadline with my own writing.

    This is one of the worst take-offs I have ever read and an insult to Charlotte Bronte.

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