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With a slew of superb novelists, including Susan Hill, Helen Dunmore, Emma Donoghue, Lionel Shriver and Linda Grant, this Jane Eyre reprisal has great promise. Yet the result is a bit of a hotchpotch.And The New Yorker reviews Claire Harman's biography of Charlotte Brontë.
A few stories tell the Jane Eyre tale from another character’s perspective. In “Grace Poole Her Testimony”, Helen Dunmore gives voice to the sour housekeeper, but the story is disappointingly dry. In a funny but underdeveloped conceit, Sally Vickers gives us a Rochester who feels trapped by Jane, finding her ministrations to his blindness deeply irritating: “The idea of marriage to her now revolted me.”
Most of the stories move further away from Brontë’s story, touching instead on the novel’s themes, such as female empowerment, love across the class divide or heartbreak.
This variety is also the book’s limitation. The rubric is so broad that the stories don’t really hang together. While it is nice to note echoes of Jane Eyre and Rochester in various characters – in Susan Hill’s story, for example, the couple appear in the guise of Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson – the connections often feel strained, forged by a lot of over-explaining.
Hill’s narrator has a “desperate need to acquire something they had always had and taken for granted, as their birthright. And that was security. Financial. Social. Domestic. Marital.” This kind of exposition might be forgiven in the baggier form of a novel, but in short fiction it only alienates the reader. [...]
This uneven collection is at its best when the stories don’t attempt to stand on grand drama or heightened prose, but speak directly, about the real things. (Catherine Humble)
In this masterly biography, Harman captures the contradictions that defined the life and work of the author of “Jane Eyre.” Together with her sisters Emily and Anne, Brontë led a life that was tedious when it was not tragic: spent largely in rural isolation, and punctuated by the untimely deaths of loved ones and stints teaching and governessing. To explain how genius flourished in such circumstances Harman leads readers on a precipitous journey through the writer’s interior landscape. The Brontës were odd, antisocial, enmeshed, obsessive, and violent; on one occasion, an adult Emily terrorized her siblings by punching the family dog in the eyes till it was “half-blind.” Harman’s psychologically astute portrait deftly bridges Charlotte’s world and her work.This is the perfect treat for a mother on Mother's Day, according to The New York Times:
Happy Mother’s Day! It’s not too late to cook her our classic recipe for a Dutch baby, and set her to watching “Jane Eyre” on Netflix this afternoon. (Sam Sifton)Inquisitr describes the TV series Penny Dreadful as
mixing the macabre with the romantic, while maintaining a hauntingly gothic atmosphere that seems reminiscent of the novels of Emily Brontë or Mary Shelley, upon whose works some of the characters are based. (Edward Vkanty)Both Keighley News and Grough tell about a rescue at the Brontë waterfalls on the Haworth moors. AnneBrontë.org wonders what Anne's plans for the future might have been. The Silver Petticoat Review mixes Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights with The Originals.