Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Introduced by Joanna Briscoe
As a child given to reading on window seats, I was supremely lucky to come across Jane Eyre at the age of the protagonist: 10 when the novel begins. The heroine and inspiration for all of us who were also “obscure, plain and little”, Jane was my bookish soulmate with infinitely worse outsider status, providing fuel to every orphan fantasy that would explain my lot. Jane Eyre taught the young reader so much about suffering, about true friendship and love, and about courage. It demanded to be reread many times. To this day, I see Jane as one of the great heroines: she is utterly determined, while not given to flouncy foot stamping in the Scarlett O’Hara, Holly Golightly or Becky Sharp vein, yet more spirited in her integrity than Dorothea Brooke or Esther Summerson.
As a young adult, I deliberately used the novel to initiate weeping sessions in order to siphon off other griefs, and somehow, I now realise, absorbed the desire to marry complex protagonists with dark and twisted storytelling, the novel influencing me as both a writer and reader. Now that it is all less personal and I don’t find myself dreaming about my baronial hall catching fire, I regard it as a masterpiece of both entertainment and literature. As with Du Maurier’s Rebecca, it is clear why some critics regard it as overblown, but I interpret its more gothic elements as intensity rather than excess.
Joanna Briscoe is a contributor to Reader, I Married Him, an anthology of stories inspired by Jane Eyre. This post is an extract from a long piece in the Guardian to celebrate the 200 anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth.
She and other contributors and the editor, Tracy Chevalier, will be discussing this new book at Hay Festival on Saturday 28 May at 5.30pm. Details and link to ticket sales here:
TRACY CHEVALIER, LIONEL SHRIVER, KIRSTY GUNN AND JOANNA BRISCOE
READER, I MARRIED HIM
Event 77 • Saturday 28 May 2016, 5.30pm • Venue: Llwyfan Cymru – Wales Stage
In this celebration of the bi-centenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, Chevalier is joined by three fellow writers to introduce their anthology of stories inspired by Jane Eyre.