Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre (Collector’s Library) by Charlotte Bronte | LibraryThing

* 1001 Books Book

Brontë, C. (1993). Jane Eyre. New York: Modern Library.

I remember having listened to the audio book when I was in junior high. Yet, I did not feel as though I could say I had actually read Brontë’s Jane Eyre. So, I picked up the book a second time.

Jane is an orphaned girl stuck with her mean, widowed, and wealthy aunt, Mrs. Reed, and her wretched cousins. Jane suffers at their hands to the point of being thrilled to go to boarding school just to escape their heavy-handed cruelty.

At the Lowood School, however, Jane finds more of the same abuses and deprivations. Under the direction of the antagonistic and puritanical Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane and her peers go more days without what they need. When Mr. Brocklehurst loses his position, though, and a new committee takes over Lowood, life for the students dramatically improves.

As an adult, Jane becomes a governess. She takes on employment at Thornfield manor under Byronic hero Mr. Rochester. Jane develops romantic feelings for Mr. Rochester, an enigmatic man with a past of his own.

I found Jane Eyre quite powerful in the creation and phrasing of the eponymous character. Simultaneously compassionate and willful, Jane can stand on her own. Mr. Rochester seems to love this quality, too. Jane is unsinkable and can look out for herself. In the ways that counts for Brontë, her orphaned heroine and Byronic hero are a perfect match.

It’s difficult for me to see if this is where the clichés of gothic romance originate or if it was already old hat. A similar question I had was whether all of the orphan misery was original to Brontë or if it was borrowed with Dickens. It definitely met my melodrama quota for the year.

Three out of Five Pearls

For more on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, please check out the following links:

A Turn of the Wheels; Katherine by Anya Seton

Goodreads | Katherine by Anya Seton

Seton, A., & Gregory, P. (2004). Katherine a novel. Chicago, Ill:Chicago Review Press. 9781556525322

Katherine tells the story of actual Katherine Swynford (neé de Roet), a pivotal player in the history of English royalty. In the Fourteenth Century, lady in-waiting to Queen Philippa, Philippa de Roet sends for her younger sister, Katherine. Katherine de Roet has been living at a small, country convent. With the prioress, Katherine makes the journey to London. Innocent Katherine takes the London court by storm with her beauty. She comes to the attention of rough knight, Hugh Swynford, and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of the king and Blanche, the Duchess of Lancaster. Katherine more than reluctantly marries Swynford but the Lancasters do not forget Katherine. In a few years, while John of Gaunt and Swynford are dealing with the 100 Years War, a plague claims many victims including Blanche of Lancaster. However, Katherine eases Blanche’s suffering and finds a priest to administer the Duchess’s last rites. In grief, John of Gaunt takes notice of the lovely Katherine and gives her her own coat of arms, bearing three wheels which signify St. Catherine and Katherine’s maiden name, de Roet. From there, the relationship escalates into an affair which has stunning and long lasting effects on not only their contemporaries but their descendants as it precipitates the Wars of the Roses.

This particular work of historical fiction is remarkable in the amount of research done on an era long past in order to make the novel seem authentic. Having published this in the 1950s, Anya Seton had to research. While most of the narrative takes place in England, Katherine and other characters are Flemish and speak French. Seton’s characters sometimes converse in an older form of French. In a note preceding the novel, Seton explained that she used the names of people she saw in registers. Also, most of the characters are real: Katherine, John of Gaunt, Katherine’s brother in-law Geoffrey Chaucer, John Wycliffe, etc. Seton provides much detail of Medieval English life. With this, the reader experiences the difficulty of survival, particularly of women such as Katherine.

My mom remembered reading this book as a teenager and this spurred her interest in both English history and literature. When I read it, I was fascinated by the book and some of the people who made cameos. The mention of John Wycliffe has spurred quite a bit of amateur research on my part. In reading the 2004 version, I was able to read a foreword by Philippa Gregory (writer, The Other Boleyn Sister). Like Gregory, I think Seton set the tone for the historical novel. Seton did her homework and her creation was a labor of love. Gregory also points out how Seton subscribed to Freudian concepts and had a 1950s mindset. Although I agree with this as well, I think Katherine is an excellent work.

I would recommend Katherine to the female historical fiction audience. It is a bit romantic. Also, this would be a great introduction to some nonfiction work on English history. The world’s interest in Katherine Swynford has led to many websites dedicated to her. Readers may catch the craze. Also, the reader must not be opposed to long novels; Katherine is over 500 pages.

Four out of Five Pearls



The Sisters – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Austen, J., & Gibson, F. (1981). Sense and sensibility. Charlotte Hall, MD: Recorded Books.

Ballaster, R., & Austen, J. (2003). In Sense and sensibility. Penguin classics. London: Penguin Books. 9780141439662

I realized it was about time to read something by Jane Austen. Having seen the movie with Emma Thompson and having friends who were great fans, I chose Sense and Sensibility. I both listened to and read this novel.

Sense and Sensibility was written by Jane Austen and published in 1811. Austen lived in Regency Period England, was one of eight children of an Anglican rector. Publication was costly for Austen and she published anonymously. Only her family knew she was aware of the fact that she penned these works. On a positive note, Austen was able to maintain privacy throughout her life. As an observer of her environment, Austen produced many literary works, including Sense and Sensibility, where her quick wit and eye for details creates a great document of society and times of Austen’s day.

Sense and Sensibility quickly focuses on the Dashwood family. Patriarch Henry Dashwood dies and leaves all his money to his son and first marriage child, John Dashwood. Henry does not much provide for his second wife and his three daughters due to the dictates of the time. Although Henry prevails upon John to take care of his wife and daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, are homeless and have meager income. John’s wife talks John out of giving his stepmother and half sisters more and the Dashwood females are invited to live with distant cousins – the Middletons of Barton Park. Sensible Elinor is saddened by this departure since she and her sister-in-law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, have become quick friends. Nonetheless, Elinor and emotional, romantic Marianne meet many new people including retired officer Colonel Brandon and the dashing John Willoughby. Willoughby rescues Marianne during a rain storm in which she twisted her ankle. Marianne and Willoughby seem the ideal match until Willoughby has some business to attend to in London. Now, the Dashwoods meet the Steele sisters with whom they have a common relative in Lady Middleton. Lucy Steele turns out to be secretly engaged to Edward Ferriers of all people. Are the Dashwoods doomed or is there true light at the end of the tunnel for them?

While I found the style and relationships of the characters and times to be more stiff and formal than I prefer, I found Sense and Sensibility to be a rewarding read. The form is classic and the problems are not just products of Austen’s day. We see problems like this today. I particularly enjoyed Elinor’s wit and candor. Austen seemed to have written what she knew and it is commendable.

I see the title as alternate names for Elinor (Sense) and Marianne (Sensibility). There is more to this, though. Elinor can be likened to the Age of Reason while Marianne is the figurehead for the ensuing Romantic Era. However, Austen shows the reader that the Age of Reason and the Romantic Era love each other and go hand in hand. They live by one another and have each other’s back. These Ages are sisters. Ultimately, one cannot appreciate Romanticism without Rationalism and vice versa.

Three out of Five Pearls