Monday, April 23, 2018

In The Times, Stig Abell, the Times Literary Supplement editor,has chosen the '30 novels that define Britain', and you may not have expected to see these two:
Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
by Jean Rhys
This prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is about the first wife of Mr Rochester, a Creole woman called Antoinette Cosway. Removed from home and family in Jamaica, renamed “Bertha” and condemned to a confined life in England, she becomes the archetypal “madwoman in the attic”. Again, mental health and societal health are elided in the story. [...]
Villette (1853)
by Charlotte Brontë
I could have picked Jane Eyre, but there is a respectable argument that Villette is the greatest of Brontë’s novels. George Eliot preferred it, saying that there was something “preternatural in its powers”. It is a rewrite of Brontë’s first (belatedly published) novel, The Professor (1857). There are gothic touches and feminist cruxes to go alongside the determined realism throughout.
Another selection is '20 Books by Women that Changed the World' made by 'academic booksellers, publishers and librarians, academicians and academics' for Academic Book Week 2018 (23-28 April). The public has a chance to vote for their favourite on a list which includes Jane Eyre. You can vote here. The winner will be announced on Friday April 27th.

Also in The Times, there's a review of the concert by LPO/Vladimir Jurowski at the Royal Festival Hall.
The challenge? Build a coherent and compelling programme round Stravinsky’s Ode. It should be possible. The result? A flimsy sequence of memorial pieces, and a totally unrelated concerto. Baffling.
Granted, the 1943 Ode is not Stravinsky’s most inspiring work. This 11-minute memorial was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky in honour of his late wife Natalie; the central Eclogue was salvaged from the composer’s discarded score for Orson Welles’s film of Jane Eyre. Enjoyable enough, yes, but fairly missable. At the premiere one of the trumpeters played everything in the wrong key. I have some sympathy for Koussevitzky, who later admitted that he preferred that cacophonous “original version”. (Rebecca Franks)
Onirik (France) reviews the new edition of Une vie, the 1995 biography of Emily Brontë by Denise Le Dantec.
Une biographie essentielle, à l’occasion du bicentenaire de la naissance d’Emily Brontë. De sa vie propre, on sait finalement peu de choses, ou trop de choses au contraire en regard de sa soeur si célèbre Charlotte, ou de la fratrie comme un tout. Dans cet ouvrage, Denise Le Dantec remplace Emily au centre. [...]
Elle n’a été l’auteur que d’un seul roman et quel roman, Wuthering Heights, totalement incompris lors de sa sortie, car trop sauvage, trop impertinent, en un mot, trop moderne. Encore aujourd’hui, si les lecteurs s’attendent à y trouver une histoire d’amour classique, ils seront déçus. Le roman est complexe, grave, tourmenté. A l’image d’Emily, peut-être. Denise Le Dantec affirme qu’elle a imaginé en Heathcliff le seul homme qu’elle aurait pu aimer.
Que sait-on de ses amours justement ? Rien, ou si peu. Elle est fille de pasteur, numéro quatre dans la fratrie d’origine. Très tôt, elle a une conscience aiguë de la mort qui rôde. Une image forte : il existe un immense attachement, presque hybride, avec sa cadette, Anne, on les voyait volontiers bras dessus bras dessous cheminant dans les landes du Yorkshire. Denise Le Dantec évoque des regards échangés avec un garçon de ferme adopté qui aurait pu être une source d’inspiration et un amour démesuré et stoïque pour son frère, Branwell, à la fin de sa vie.
Poète de génie, Emily nous apparaît comme une jeune femme solaire, aimant la nature, les animaux, la vie de famille à la campagne. Rien de moins que la simplicité d’un quotidien rustique, certes, mais sain. Du moins, en apparence. Denise Le Dantec n’y fait pas allusion, mais il est apparu bien plus tard que la proximité de nombreuses tombes avait véritablement corrompu les conditions de vie au presbytère. Emily meurt de tuberculose, à l’âge de trente ans.
On peut reprocher à l’auteur de cette biographie quelques envolées lyriques quand elle imagine des dialogues entre les soeurs, ou même leurs pensées, mais dans l’ensemble, cette biographie s’impose comme essentielle. (Claire) (Translation)
La opinión de Murcia (Spain) recommends the newly-translated poetry of Emily Brontë.
'Poesía Completa' (1908), Emily Brontë
Uno de los libros recomendados para adquirir el Día del Libro tenía que ser de ella, Emily Brontë. La autora de 'Cumbres borrascosas', uno de los grandes clásicos de la literatura romántica, tenía en realidad una única pasión: la poesía. Este libro recopila sus poemas, obras poderosas y apasionadas que combinan la vitalidad del espíritu humano con el mundo natural. (C.G.) (Translation)
The 'Best books on wedding disasters' in the Daily Mail:
And think of poor Jane Eyre, swapping her wedding dress for her old ‘stuff gown’, following the revelation that her groom has a wife in the attic. Instead of leaving Thornfield Hall as its new honeymooning mistress, she steals away at dawn. (Patricia Nicol)
On DNA India, an associate publisher of Bloomsbury India picks Wide Sargasso Sea as her favourite book.
Himanjali Sankar Associate Publisher, Bloomsbury India
Jean Rhys’ prequel to Jane Eyre, The Wide Sargasso Sea, altered my neat, tight-laced understanding of life as it were — it erased my abiding fear of the irrational, of insanity, instilled by the image of Bertha Mason tearing up Jane’s wedding veil, terrifying as it was for me as a child. The conviction in a backstory, of an empathetic logic behind all we do was my biggest takeaway from Jean Rhys, apart from just altering many conventional notions of literature I had — of race, of gender stereotypes, of marginalisation. The sheer wonder in worlds differently imagined and the very boldness of completely dismantling a classic to create a new one!
The Hollywood News reviews the film Beast.
But this is a film about the transgression of repression, not the repression itself, and so enters Pascal, saving Moll from a potential assault after she runs off to a club to escape her own birthday party, by nothing less than pelting the perpetrator with pebbles and threatening to shoot him. He literally appears like Heathcliff from the sand dunes, suitably rugged and the perfect broody, untamed mismatch to Moll’s shy and painfully upper-class trappings. They appear, at first, to be exactly what the other needs. (Abi Silverthorne)
ITV News discusses 'book block'. the books that cause it the most and how to get rid of it.
And the books that adults are most likely to struggle to finish? The poll suggests that readers are more likely to have difficulty with modern-day novels, such as Fifty Shades Of Grey, rather than works by classic authors such as Dickens or Emily Brontë. [...]
Books adults are most likely to struggle to finish:
  • Fifty Shades Of Grey, EL James
  • The Fellowship Of The Ring, JRR Tolkien
  • Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

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