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.