Tag Archives: Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

For my first ‘Spending Sunday With A Classic’ I thought I would go for what is seen as one of the classics in literature ‘Jane Eyre’. I can’t lie to you and say I wasn’t slightly daunted at the prospect of a classic over 500 pages long, because I was. I don’t always tend to fair too well with the classics on the whole. However I can report back that I owe everyone who has told me to read this book a huge thank you (my mother is staying at the moment and keeps saying ‘I told you so’ every so often as we have been talking about it a lot) as I think in Jane Eyre I may have not only found the perfect narrator but also what I could say is a near perfect book and read. The only problem now is how to do it justice with my thoughts but dear reader I shall try.

I admit that I didnt start ‘Jane Eyre’ with the highest of hopes – I will be honest. First of all there was my ‘history’ with Charlotte’s sister Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights’, which I thought was tosh, but we shouldn’t judge an author on their siblings efforts (Byatt and Drabble or vice versa for instance) should we? There was also the length, 500+ pages, to contend with, the fact it is labelled a ‘classic’ and also the fact it started of with an orphan. Books with orphans as the lead character have, to my mind, become the great cliché of writing however this is one of the earliest and therefore if anything people will have stolen/paid homage to this.

When we first meet Jane Eyre it is under the begrudging guardian ship of her venomous (and therefore I liked her a bit) Aunt Mrs Reed in Gateshead with her vile cousins who contanstly bully and blame her. We are of course instantly on Jane’s side; we always want the underdog to come through after all. Soon enough things come to ahead and the aunt who can never love her  sends her to Lockwood a charity institution for young girls where the uncaring Mr Brocklehurst believes the devil can be taken from the child. I could add in so much here it’s untrue, such as the wonderful Miss Temple and the delightful and tragic Helen Burns, but if there is anyone out there who hasn’t read it I wouldn’t want to spoil a second of the wonderful read you have ahead of you before the main story really starts, yes this wonderful first few chapters is just a warm up for Bronte.

Well, when I say main, I mean more the story we all think we know if we haven’t read the book which is starts as Jane leaves Lowood as a teacher and becomes a governess for the mysterious Mr Rochester’s rather irritating ward Adele. From the moment she ‘bewitches’ his horse something starts between the two characters and takes the story into a darker and more eerie setting in the grand house of Thornfield Hall.

Despite being much older and a bit of a grumpy arse so and so there is something about Rochester that attracts Jane despite herself, and it appears Rochester can see something in Jane despite her plainness (is this where we get the term ‘plain Jane’?) and situation. Only Charlotte Bronte doesn’t let things run smoothly or the way you would assume and instead provides twist after twist taking her reader on a rather heartbreaking, occasionally shocking, slightly enraging, but immensely readable and gripping journey. She also takes you on it with an utterly wonderful narrating heroine who Bronte really puts through the mill and therefore also the reader on an emotional rollercoaster (not that they had rollercoaster’s in Charlotte’s day). Can you tell I loved it?

I still don’t think I have anywhere near done this book justice but then I don’t think I ever could. I could happily rattle on for a good thousand words or more though… However rather than give anything more away to those who haven’t read it and possibly ruin their enjoyment of it (as we can discuss it in more detail in the comments) I will simply say that ‘Jane Eyre’ has instantly become one of my all time favourite novels. I have even given ‘Villette’ a few enquiring sideways glances since I finished this yesterday. I would give ‘Jane Eyre’ an eleven out of ten only that would be breaking the rules. I shall simply have to give it a ten out of ten in bold. 10/10 There we go, a simply MUST read book, its even made me think about the way I read – and it takes the most special of books to do that to us I think personally.

Now can we all have a good old natter about it as I am simply bursting to!?!

(And yes I will be catching up with almost three weeks of comments today too when I can – as Mum is staying so to be on the computer too much might be deemed rude, apologies for my comment rubbishness of late!)

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Filed under Books of 2010, Charlotte Bronte, Review, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

Something Sporadic in the Eyre (Reading Slower)

Get ready for a bit of a rambling post today as I am trying to tie a few things together that are still a little loose in my mind and it might work or it might not. But its of course something that I would love your thoughts on, as usual this post ends with lots of questions aimed at all of you. Anyway I am rambling and digressing already! So back to the matter in hand… I didn’t do a post on Sunday which is very unlike me. I normally have a post up my sleeve or more realistically I normally have lots to say. Yet I was very busy, very busy sleeping. In fact I had over ten hour’s straight and then woke up in a mild panic that I hadn’t put anything on the blog… before promptly falling back to sleep again. Lethargy is what seems to be in the air in Savidge Towers at the moment and I don’t think I am alone.

Actually from various chats I have been having with various people it seems to be around London in general full stop. I think it’s the time of the year, is anyone else that I haven’t spoken to feeling this, anyone outside London too? Some of you lucky so and so’s will be spared this currently as you will be heading for your Spring and Summer but you might know this feeling from when your autumn hit. That’s the thing you see autumn has come and it appears drained me of all energy… so thank goodness for Jane Eyre.

I thought this old postcard of Haddon Hall most appropriate both in a sense of this time of year and it is just how I picture Thornfield Hall... as did the BBC when they filmed Jane Eyre here.

I won’t discuss Jane Eyre too much right now as I am saving that for Sunday when I am hoping that you will all be joining in for a bit of a chat about it. My mother is staying that weekend and I have already asked her to have her thoughts at the ready especially as she has taught it so that could add an interesting insight.  Suffice to say I am really enjoying my first Charlotte Bronte book so far in fact it was another reason I didn’t blog on Sunday and has rather cleverly highlighted how I am unintentionally reading at the moment. But let’s take these things one at a time.

You see I was enjoying my first few chapters, as I started it a little later than wanted, of Jane Eyre so much that the thought of leaving the book, turning on the computer, writing a post, then getting distracted by other lovely blogs would suddenly mean half my Sunday is gone and Jane is left unattended and possibly rather vexed with me. It is after all reading that sparked this blog and sometimes in writing it and commenting back (which I have been a little lax with of late) I actually end up missing out on the reading. Though both make me happy if I have not read anything then what do I have to discuss.

Now to how Jane has made me aware how I have been rather unintentionally reading of late. In fact it’s actually Charlotte Bronte and Daphne Du Maurier that made me spot this. No its not that I read newer fiction over classics, though it can be the case, its that sometimes I am not taking as much time as I should with a book. I find if I am loving a book I want to hurry it up so I can talk to all of you about it, and actually I should be taking my time letting the full effects of what’s going on in the book take hold and building a picture of the book that’s going to last longer than a blog post. Does that make sense?

This isn’t a post about me not writing blogs ever again or every day, because I have done the latter before – I have never wanted to give up the blog – and then carried on as I was (and I have noticed I have posts scheduled to the end of the week). It’s much more about time and how precious time with special books is and finding the balance. So there might be less posts when I am concentrating on a classic, or re-reading the longlist for The Green Carnation Prize which I keep forgetting to do despite them looming over me on my desk – after Jane I will though. There might be the same amont of posts, who knows, but while autumn hits and with it this strange lethargy I think I might spend more time curled up on the sofa with a book on my lap… rather than the laptop, especially as this is the time of year the longer books seem to come off the shelves.

Are we all feeling like this, or do certain books or times of year make us sit back a little and take stock now and again? If you’ve had a book thats made you think differently about how you read I would love to hear about it. Do you find autumn and the shorter days and longer nights mean you, like me, start to pick up the bigger books you have been meaning to read? Over to you…

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Books on Trains

I just realised that the title of this mini-post looks like I am about to talk about books about trains, and I swear I’m not though I do have a train themed question coming for you slightly later on. The reason for todays post is that I will be spending about 8 hours on trains and tubes this weekend as I am off up north again this time to visit my youngest Aunty Alice, her husband (who I have a big bag of books for as he is a mammoth reader too) and my two year old twin cousins. So this gives me the perfect chance for some reading time and so I selected four, yes four – in case of all possible reading errors as mentioned in Back Up Books earlier this week, books for my trip away which are…

  • The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier – I am halfway through and this will be ideal if any of the others don’t quite do the trick (which I am sure they will) and if I finish one of the novels this can be a palate cleanser.
  • Wavewalker by Stella Duffy – I havent followed up on Stella Duffy’s crime series since reading ‘Calendar Girl’ and I swore I would so this has been on my hit list a while and both crime and Stella Duffy tend to do me well so a mix should be ideal.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I need to crack on with this for our discussion on the 26th of this month with ‘Spending Sunday with a Classic’. I always forget how big it is till I actually take it off the shelf.
  • C by Tom McCarthy – One of this years Man Booker contenders and one I think I might struggle with but really want to try so will be cracking (though not literally spine cracking) this one open first and seeing, or c-ing ha, how I get on.

So that is what I should be reading over the weekend (not all of them of course but bits of or a few of), what will you be reading this weekend? How many books do you take a way for a weekend vacation? Oh and trains… I was desperately looking for books which are set on trains and other than the Agatha Christies which I have read I couldnt think of any, can any of you help? I do like the idea of a good train journey to read on a train journey.

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Spending Sundays With A Classic?

No, no you haven’t gone mad and neither have I. I am well aware that today is Saturday and not Sunday. However today seems a befitting day to launch a little something new, that gets me (and maybe some of you if you fancy) back into those classics. It’s also something I will need – oh how demanding of me – I mean I would love your recommendations and suggestions with. Right let me explain…

A few things have conspired with me in the last few weeks that have made me start to yearn for some classics. One factor has been that suddenly August has become really autumnal in the UK (I am hoping it is going to be better for the three day weekend we are all having here) and in London the main view from my windows has been rather like this:

A photo by my good friend Dom Agius (www.domagius.com)

Yes that’s right, rain ready, delightfully dramatic but also most certainly autumnal. The perfect sort of weather to curl up on your sofa or in bed and get curled up with some classics. It seemed most serendipitous then that I had decided that as I was reading so much modern fiction (for a certain something) for a change of scene I would join in with reading ‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodie Smith for Cornflower’s Book Group which will be being discussed today. (I am supposedly on an internet ban by The Converted One this weekend as I have been overdoing it with work and everything and we have very few free weekends before we head for Brazil, if not I will catch up after.) I will be spilling my full thoughts on ‘I Capture The Castle’ very soon, but getting back to something older, not that it felt dated, had a certain something about it – especially seeing as it was a book I bought ages ago and have been meaning to read anyway. I wondered, have been getting swept up in the modern a little too much?

I had mulled over doing another ‘Sensation Season’ a month or two ago and then again a few weeks ago but I thought maybe it was time for something a bit different. So instead what I am going to do is be ‘Spending Sundays With A Classic’. Not every Sunday mind you just a few here there and everywhere but I will let you know which ones are coming up and when (should I simply give you a few weeks notice or have a sort of schedule, what do you think?) and maybe if you would like to you can join in.

Now before I ask you lots of questions about classics I thought I would share my initial six possible contenders (don’t judge me on not having read them sooner, ha) which are…

  
  

  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Is there anyone out there left who hasn’t read those already? I bet I am one of the last people ever to the party of these books, but maybe some people will want a re-read, or I am happy to read alone. This isn’t the definite list of six, just the initial one that called to me from my TBR pile. Now what I want is for you to answer some classic questions and they are these;

  1. What do you define as a classic?
  2. What is your favourite classic of all time so far that everyone on earth should be made to read?
  3. Which classic have you just never really managed to get on with?
  4. Which classic books have you yet to read but really must get around to?

Right… over to you then…

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The Book Buying Ban… The Update (Part II)

Only earlier this week I mentioned that though it was in many ways painful and was taking some serious avoidance my month of no book buying hasn’t been quite as difficult as I thought it would. This is both thanks to ReadItSwapIt and the Library as I mentioned in the earlier post. I also said I had received some lovely parcels from some lovely publishers and would let you know what had arrived and so I thought as its a Saturday and book shopping is so tempting I would tease you with these delights that you could run out and buy; as none of you are doing anything as silly as a self imposed ban like I am hopefully!! First up some classics…

I have been making a concerted effort to read more classics and two publishers you cant go wrong with are Vintage Classics and Oxford University Press. When a rather large thud resounded through the building from the letterbox I came down and found ‘The Bronte Collection’ which includes Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Villette and Jane Eyre. I will admit I didnt love Wuthering Heights but after reading The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan which is all about the sisters earlier this year I think a Bronte-Binge is on the way and the season after New Year seems perfect for this don’t you think? Might be a good Xmas pressie for relatives this Christmas maybe. (Hang on did I just mention the C word before December starts – I should be ashammed!) They also sent The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever and a huge collection of his letters. I havent read any Cheever but am thrilled about these two delights. Oxford University Press kindly sent the last of the Sensation Season novels (don’t cry they may be back again next year) in the form of Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ along with George Moore’s ‘Esther Waters’ which hit my attention waves on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book show when they looked at neglected classics. Be warned – the neglected classics are dangerous list of books which could lead to a huge spree.

From the people at Harper arrived a very diverse collection of books in one big parcel, the postman is not a fan of this address – his arms certainly aren’t, quite an eclectic mix indeed. Two of the books are from thier new imprint Blue Door ‘The Ballad of Trench Mouth Taggart’ (great title) by M Glenn Taylor and Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames by Luis d’Antin Van Rooten the latter can only be described by a post on their new blog. Sounds bizarre but will give it a go. They also sent me Snow Hill a thriller by Mark Sanderson, who has written a memoir so heartbreaking I have owned it for years and never able to read, Mark will be doing a Savidge Reads Grills very soon. Last but not least by any means as actually this is one of the books I have been most excited about in weeks (as you know I am having an Agatha Christie binge) is ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ compiled by John Curran, I had to stop myself reading it as soon as it arrived. It’s a treat for a very lazy Sunday.

Now in a few weeks I will be doing a piece on the books to look forward to over the next year, you can see the predictions I made for this year here should you wish. Already some are coming through the letter box and Sceptre have done some very clever marketing with a collection of three books and three characters “you simply must meet in 2010”. They are called Nevis Gow, Lindiwe Bishop and Jack Rosenblum and I shall tell you more about them in the forthcoming weeks. I just love how they have packaged it all, no titles or authors on the cover, intriguing.  Books already out arrived too and they are The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt, which I think has a stunning cover, and Incendiary by Chris Cleave and you all know how I loved The Other Hand.

Another massive parcel has arrived from Orion. I have succumbed to the latest in the Twilight Saga and it seems more Vampire delights await me with the first two of Charlaine Harris’ series about Sookie Stackhouse (great name) which have become the incredibly successful True Blood tv series. I haven’t heard much on the blogosphere on these but am very much intrigued by them as have seen tonnes on the tube.  The final tome that you can see is one thats not out until June next year but I have been priviledged enough to be asjed to take a very early look at. ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin is massive, comes with very little, though intriguing blurb and has already had the film rites bought by Ridley Scott, more on that soon too as I think this is going to be huge (and not just in size) next year. And finally…

It’s always nice when a publisher emails you be they big or small. I have to admit I hadn’t heard too much about Honno Press when they emailed me asking if they could send me a catalogue. Honno Press is an independent publisher of Welsh Women’s fiction (so a bit like a welsh version of Persephone if you are a fan) and they have a wonderful selection of books, they also go the extra mile as they went through my blog and picked three books they thought I would love. A welsh sensation novel ‘A Burglary’ by Amy Dillwyn, a book where “each generation looks back into the tragic past, loves, secrets and lies are hauled into the open with surprising consequences for all” in ‘Hector’s Talent for Miracles’ by Kitty Harri and finally a collection of witty, wry and sharply observed stories about women with ‘Stranger Within The Gates’ by Bertha Thomas. Sounds like they have got me spot on!!!

Blimey. Now over to you… are Bronte’s and other classics the perfect pressies for Christmas and reading as Spring… erm… springs up? Who has read the Charlaine Harris books, are they like Twilight? Who has tried Honno Press and what did you think?  What will you be curling up with this weekend? What books have you accumulated of late?

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The Taste of Sorrow – Jude Morgan

I wrote a while back about how this had pleasantly landed upon my doorstep from the lovely people at Headline and though only having read one Bronte novel (which I didn’t really like very much – Wuthering Heights) I loved the premise of a book all about one of the most famous families in English Literature, if not the most famous. Having stayed in Haworth, drunk at The Black Bull and most importantly getting to walk round the parsonage I can totally understand people’s fascinations with the Bronte’s. Reading ‘Daphne’ earlier this year and seeing that Daphne Du Maurier was also intrigued only made me intrigued further, though I have still as yet never read another Bronte book. That, thanks in the main to Jude Morgan, is definitely something that I am going to rectify. 

‘The Taste of Sorrow’ starts in some ways as it means to go on, this is no fairy story. Those of you who have read up on the sisters or been to the parsonage will know they struggled through life until they finally published there books, which actually happens very close to the end of the book. In fact Morgan concentrates very much on the times before they became household names. The opening chapter and scene is that of the Bronte children’s mother, Maria Branwell on her deathbed and is told mainly from the eyes of their father Patrick Bronte, originally Patrick Prunty, as he watches his wife die not knowing what to do about or for his children.

Growing up motherless though they have their mother’s sister in the house Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily (Anne being too young and Branwell being a boy) are all sent to Cowan Bridge and The Clergy Daughter’s School to train to become governesses. The family not being rich the girls will need to make money for themselves “a pittance” as securing them husbands is not going to be easy. This part of the book is very dark and leads you through grim corridors, itchy uniforms and the evil watching eye of Miss Andrews who see’s all children as ‘hoydens’ which I think is a wonderful word (one of my cats, sadly no longer with us, was in fact called Hoyden) and its this sort of language that Morgan uses, along with some profanity I didn’t think people would have known back in those days. In many ways its Morgan’s very real language and dialogue, which never sounds modern, always grounded and readable and added to the pleasure of reading the novel. 

Anyway I digress. From the poor school, as Patrick cannot afford better, great woe comes as the eldest two daughters, who I always forget about, Maria and Elizabeth become ‘consumptive’ and like many of the girls in the school of the time sadly pass away. The girls in actual fact died just over a month apart, something which shocks and partially destroys the Bronte family unit. It also adds to the pressure of all the remaining children that they must become great successes however the fantasy world of ‘Angria’ is much more interesting and they throw themselves into it to escape the real world, only the real world can never quite be escaped. We then follow them as they struggle to leave ‘Angria’ behind in their childhood as they grown up and try to make a success of their lives, which isn’t for a very long time writing as ‘girls don’t write books’ and won’t get published. Some of you will know what happens in that time other’s will not and I refuse to spoil it.

I will say it is absolutely wonderfully written. I found it hard to tear myself away from the book and in fact spent a whole day in bed with it (well I did have swine flu too, had it been the weekend I would have made some excuse). Morgan brings to life the three famous sisters and their different character traits. Charlotte who is strong minded, yet fearful, independent yet nervous. Emily is quite cunning and dark and often compared to a cat. Anne the baby of the family who is quite quiet and meek and yet has a lot going on in her head and once you get to know her is much wiser than her years. Branwell and his downfall are of course there but at the heart of it this is very much a book about Emily, Anne and Charlotte… and now I want to run off and read all of their books.

Well I have read Emily’s but after reading ‘The Taste of Sorrow’ I might have to give it another whirl as I think it would have more resonance with me now, strange how a fictional account of her has made me want to re-evaluate my thoughts on her work. I think that shows the power of Morgan’s writing, whose back catalogue of works I will be adding to the TBR along with everything Bronte. A truly wonderful book that anyone who loves books, let alone anyone intrigued by the Bronte’s, should read. I am gutted it didn’t make it onto the Man Booker Long List, I think its safe to say it will make it onto my favourite reads list at the end of the year. Have you read any Jude Morgan which one should I read next? Where should I start with the Bronte’s?

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Bronte Fever Anyone?

A delightful parcel had popped through the gates (ok the letter box) of Savidge Towers when I got indoors last night, and you know I can’t hold back so swiftly I opened it and was delighted to see that it was a book that there is a definate buzz about at the moment.

Taste of Sorrow‘The Taste of Sorrow’ by Jude Morgan is a fictional account of the lives of the Bronte’s in particular the lives of the three now world famous sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Now I have been excited about this since seeing a few reviews popping up on blogs. The blurb will probably sell it better than I ever could so…
From an obscure country parsonage came the most extraordinary family of the nineteenth century. The Bronte sisters created a world in which we still live – the intense, passionate world of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights; and the phenomenon of this strange explosion of genius remains as baffling now as it was to their Victorian contemporaries. In this panoramic novel we see with new insight the members of a uniquely close-knit family whose tight bonds are the instruments of both triumph and tragedy. Emily, the solitary who turns from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination: Anne, gentle and loyal, under whose quietude lies the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her: Branwell, the mercurial and self-destructive brother, meant to be king, unable to be a prince: and the brilliant, uncompromising, tormented Charlotte, longing for both love and independence, who establishes the family’s name and learns its price.” 
 
Now is it me or does this sound a bit like every book-a-holics dream? The tale of one of the most literary families in the world who had difficulties living in the world outside their own fiction? So where is the catch? Well in terms of the book there isnt one, and I am hearing the murmurs of ‘Man Booker Nominee’ though of course none of us will know if this is indeed true for quite some time. However for me myself there is a bit of a worry… Will it matter if I haven’t read anything by the Bronte’s? I know, I know its a crime, actually what I am about to say may prove even more criminal as I have indeed read one of the Bronte books (and did so after having stayed for a lovely weekend in Howarth). I read ‘Wuthering Heights’ last year… and I didn’t enjoy it at all, in fact I may have mumbled ‘melodramatic and dislikable’ to close friends. So my ponderment is this…

Should I hold off and read more by the Bronte sisters, even after Emily put me off somewhat, or could this be the book that sends me into a Bronte Fever reading every Bronte book that falls in my book-a-holic path and therefore be one that I should devour instantly? What do you reckon? If I am to read any further Bronte novels, before or after this, where should I start, what are your Bronte thoughts? Also have any of you read Jude Morgan, I have had ‘Indiscretion’ on my TBR for a good while (possibly over a year I wouldnt like to say)? Do let me know, as ever your thoughts and recommendations are much needed.

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