Tuesday, February 23, 2021

 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviews Rachel Hawkins's The Wife Upstairs.
Three-fourths thriller and one part reimagined classic, “The Wife Upstairs” is a feisty Southern charmer that’s twisty enough to make dinners late in kitchens everywhere.
Taking plot and character inspiration from Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,” author Alabama author Rachel Hawkins cleverly reimagines the gothic classic by placing it in the leafy community of Mountain Brook, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. This time Jane is unknowingly embroiled in a love triangle, but she’s also looking out for herself ― carving out a new identity and life in the high-end village, where status and appearances seem to count more than character. [...]
In Hawkins’ version, admirers of “Jane Eyre” may smile as they encounter “Eddie” Rochester, zipping his sports car through the neighborhood called Thornfield Estates, the storied English names somehow fitting in quite well in this modern-day South. Despite the playfulness of the reworked names (Jane Eyre’s charge Adèle surfaces as Eddie’s Irish setter puppy), some of the more sinister characters from the classic bring their shadows with them to “The Wife Upstairs”: cold and aloof Mrs. Reed switching from Jane’s aunt to her employer and St. John River becoming John Rivers, a church employee from her past who tries blackmailing our heroine.
Jane is a fish-out-of-water, an averagely attractive young woman from out West with a mysterious past, a beat up car and a dubious living situation in a skanky apartment near strip malls. Wanting more from life, she quickly latches onto Mountain Brook’s affluent lifestyle, where Old Money meets new. Starting with a barista job, she soon finds herself walking the dogs of the wealthy, gaining enough of their trust to be able to pilfer small, valuable trinkets. Diamond earrings and gold bracelets have a way of ending up in her pockets.
As much as the reader would like to sympathize with Jane, Hawkins makes sure there are a few things about her that we should know: She’s hiding something from her past and “Jane” isn’t her real name. (It might be Helen Burns, another nod to the Brontë classic.) As these unsettling facts come to light, the reader becomes more guarded about Jane’s version of things. Tensions mount and mistrust grows as other characters weigh-in through Hawkins’ use of the multi-narrator technique. [...]
 This is not Brontë’s tale, but a modern, rip-roaring thriller best enjoyed on a sandy beach with a tall, salty-rimmed beverage nearby. (Amy Bonesteel)
Julie Ma, author of Happy Families, has written an article for Female First:
Thank goodness then for films and books where you can see people who look like you doing the things you do? There’s The Joy Luck Club but they’re Americans. What about Crazy Rich Asians? Well, they’re insanely rich and live in Singapore.
Where are the Normal British Asians?
Why does it even matter? What difference does it make if you see yourself in fiction? I see myself in Lizzy Bennet, Jane Eyre, Hermione Granger and it is wonderful to feel your bright wit, your earnest sense of duty, your courage and determination reflected in these characters who don’t necessarily look like you.
The thing is though if you are only ever depicted in one way, you’ll feel your caricature, you’ll believe your stereotype. You don’t dare to be anything else. The way to break free is for the wider world to have as many depictions of someone like you as it can.
GoodHousekeeping asks bookish questions to writer Monique Roffey.
The childhood book that’s stayed with you...
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
No one read stories to me as a child. I stole my brother’s Willard Price adventure books at first, Amazon Adventure etc and found them enthralling. Then I graduated on to the Nancy Drew mystery series. I don’t remember Enid Blyton or Narnia. My father’s books were in the house, mannish books, Graham Green and Neville Shute... My first big book love was Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Heathcliff, Cathy, their thwarted love story, the moors. “I am Heathcliff”. I still reel at this book.
Geographical asked writer Rana Foroohar to share her favourite books.
Wide Sargasso Sea • Jean Rhys • 1966
Probably my favourite novel. In her moody, beautiful way, Rhys creates an anti-colonial, feminist answer to Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. It turns out the madwoman in the attic was a beautiful heiress; both she and the Jamaican heat are way too much for Rochester to handle.
New City Lit interviews writer Rebecca Morgan about her new book Oh You Robot Saints!
I was intrigued with how the collection begins with poems about imagined robots and historic attempts at robots mimicking living things, and how it segues into later poems where the human body acts like a machine. Tell me how you started to make that parallel.
Your question immediately makes me think of this line in “Jane Eyre”: “Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine without feelings?” And of course, before that, we have Descartes to thank for the metaphor of living beings as machines. Yet we live in a time in which the metaphors of past thinkers and writers are reshaped by the realities of twenty-first-century technology: our bodies are both “like” machines, while sometimes being part machine, and we live in fear of being replaced by machines. If our bodies are like machines, and can even be machines, what is it that continues to differentiate us, animate us? (Tara Betts)
The Blunder of the Day Award goes to... Telegraph India.
In Emily Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Helen Burns dies of consumption after being quarantined for some time. Later, we are told about how Bertha Mason is kept in confinement owing to a mysterious affliction — a mental illness. Critical enquiries have uncovered the possibility of her ‘madness’ stemming from her captivity, as opposed to Edward Rochester’s argument that she was kept in captivity on account of her illness. (Ipshita Nath)
In a review of Jane Healey's latest paperback release, Herald Scotland states that she was 'apparently, named after Jane Eyre'. FarOut Magazine lists 'The 5 songs that changed Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig’s life' and one of them is Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. Fashion Network (Portugal) is reminded of Wuthering Heights by Molly Goddard's new fashion collection. Finally, the Brussels Brontë Blog features a recent Zoom talk for the group: 'Angel in the House … or Angel in Heaven? How the patriarchy operated in Victorian England — with illustrations from the visual and verbal culture of the period' by Brian Holland.

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