Charlotte Bronte

Although Jane Eyre is commonly described as a Gothic love story, only about half of the book is devoted to Jane's romance with Mr. Rochester. The first quarter of the novel focuses on Jane's miserable, rage-filled childhood and the final quarter describes her adventures living with a group of previously unknown relatives. (More than one critic has wondered why Bronte chose to include this last section. Some cynics have suggested that it might have something to do with the fact that her publisher had rejected a previous book as being too short--and call me cynical, but it does have a definite tacked-on feeling to it.) But despite some compelling passages in these sections of the story, the most memorable portion of the book--the part that established Jane Eyre as an archetype of gothic fiction--is the time Jane spends at Thornfield.

Note: Bronte's favorite contemporary author was William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair. When he wrote her a letter praising Jane Eyre, she innocently dedicated the second edition of the book to him. Unfortunately, nobody had told her that Thackeray:
  1. Had (just like Rochester!) an insane wife, and
  2. Had just published a novel featuring a conniving governess out to seduce her employer.

This lead to a lot of heated literary gossip about a possible affair.

Note #2: One thing that Jane Eyre never makes clear is the cause of Bertha Mason's madness. I read once that she was probably suffering from atypical general paresis (i.e., madness as a result of syphilitic infection) but that would mean that Rochester was most likely syphilitic as well, and would eventually infect Jane. (In a word: ewwww.) For a weird-but-absorbing look at the story from Bertha's point of view, check out Jean Rhys's novel Wide Sargasso Sea.


Everywhere, and there is a Dover Thrift (yay! $3.50!) version of Jane Eyre.

(Availability Note: While we here at Wordcandy always encourage you to buy books (in fact, buy them through us! We're a very worthy cause!) we understand that sometimes, alas, one is flat broke. If that's the case, you can read copies of some or all of this author's books at this fine site for FREE.)

Other Recommendations:
Cousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer

Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

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Posted by: Julia


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