I recently read and enjoyed a debut novel Ironskin by Tina Connolly, in which a woman, who was Fey-cursed during the Great War between humans and Fey, takes a post as governess to what she believes is a similarly Fey-touched daughter of a reclusive artist. The fact that it was a fascinating gothic fantasy with steampunk elements drew me in, but what kept me reading was the way Connolly turned the story of Jane Eyre inside out with her governess, Miss Jane Elliott, and the master of the house, Mr. Rochart, and his many secrets.
It reminded me that we slipped past a major milestone for Charlotte Brontë’s classic romance—the 165th anniversary of its original publication in October of 1847. Jane Eyre is the moving story of a woman’s quest for sufficiency, acceptance, self-respect and love. From her sad childhood as the ward of an embittered aunt, her time at a cruelly run boarding school, to her blossoming as the governess at Thornfield Hall, the novel presented a proto-feminist story with a strong and intelligent female lead.
If you’re looking for more to the Jane Eyre story, try Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys—both a prequel and re-imagining of the story from the point of view of Bertha Mason Rochester.
If you’re interested in other re-imaginings, try Jane by April Lindner, a modern retelling featuring Jane, the new nanny at Thornfield Park, and her reclusive employer (and former rock star) Nico Rathburn.
And if your curiosity stretches to the very creative Brontë family—including Emily, author of Wuthering Heights, and Anne, the author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,—Downtown Librarian Anne R. suggested a definitive history of the family—The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors : the story of a literary family.
Finally, for something completely different, check out Jasper Fforde’s genre-bending Thursday Next series beginning with The Eyre Affair. In it Fforde plays with characters from classic literature, including the kidnapping of Jane Eyre (out of every copy of the book). Next, a Special Operative in Literary Detection, will need all the help she can get to solve this crime—including that of Mr. Rochester.
Did I miss one of your favorites? Let us know!
– Jessica T., Public Services Head at CADL Downtown Lansing