Category Archives: jane eyre

Brontë Inspired Novels of 2016

2016 has been a good year for Bronte inspired Novels. Three fun books have been released so far and Anne Brontë Nightwalker will be added to the list on October 31st.  In the meantime, here’s some entertaining fiction to keep your Brontë cravings satisfied:


The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell


Madwoman Upstairs


This has all kinds of Brontë fun.  An orphan girl, a foreign university, (Oxford!), a handsome but surly professor, a crumbling attic, and missing Brontëana.  Throw in some mystery and romance and you have The Madwoman Upstairs, a play on Mr. Rochester’s deranged (or was she?) and mysterious tenant locked in his attic in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  Catherine Lowell writes with a sharp wit and brisk pace, and she knows her way around English literature.


More than anything, I began to hate women writers. Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Browning, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf. Bronte, Bronte, and Bronte. I began to resent Emily, Anne, and Charlotte—my old friends—with a terrifying passion. They were not only talented; they were brave, a trait I admired more than anything but couldn’t seem to possess. The world that raised these women hadn’t allowed them to write, yet they had spun fiery novels in spite of all the odds.


And in a declaration every passionate female lover of Victorian lit surely must agree with, she writes:


The curtains were blood-red and drawn. This was not an office. It was a small library, two storeys high, with thin ladders and impractical balconies and an expansive ceiling featuring a gaggle of naked Greeks. It was the sort of library you’d marry a man for.


I devoured The Madwoman Upstairs in four days and as I wrote in my Goodreads review:  Reader, I loved it!



Jane Steel by Lyndsay Faye


Jane Steele and similarities Bronte


Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre was a rebel.

She broke the rules and went her own way despite overwhelming barriers to self-fulfillment.  Lydsay Faye’s, Jane Steel, inspired by our beloved Ms. Eyre, is not only a rebel, she’s a serial killer.  And she’s funny as hell.


Karen, one of my favorite reviewers on GR and wickedly funny herself, describes Jane Steele so much better than the publisher does.  She writes,


this follows the life and bloody trail of jane steele, whose experiences mirror Jane Eyre in some ways, but is a much easier character for a modern reader to applaud. don’t get me wrong, Jane Eyre is a great book, but i personally get a little impatient with the way she sabotages her own happiness based on her notions of propriety or morality and the conventions of her time. it’s all perfectly reasonable behavior when you’re reading with your scholar-glasses on, but it’s not always easy to shelve those modern sensibilities that would prefer jane push up her sleeves and call rochester out on his bullshit instead of quietly absconding to suffer alone on that moral high ground.


this jane is always pushing up her sleeves, but mostly to avoid getting blood all over them.


But as Ms. Steele says in her defense,


Though I no longer presumed to have a conscience, I have never once lacked feelings.


Goodreads reviewers loved this book.  I’m still reading, but it captured me right from the start.  This Jane has a strong, compelling and mischevious voice.  This Jane is not as pure and innocent as Charlotte’s Jane, and yet she has a vulnerability that makes you root for her just the same.


Nelly Dean:  A Return to Wuthering Heights by Alison Case


Nelly Dean


I have not yet read this re-imagining of Wuthering Heights as told by the masochistically loyal servant, Nelly Dean, but it’s at the top of my tbr list.  I’ve read Emily Brontë’s masterpiece countless times and I see it entirely new with every reading.  In my 20s I thought it was wildly romantic.  In my 30s I thought it was incredibly pagan.  In my 40s, after a decade on the fire department working with alpha males, I thought Heathcliff was an abusive and oppressive psychopath and saw Cathy as a self-indulgent, histrionic, head case.  Now, I’m really curious to hear what Nelly Dean thinks of it all.


Author Alison Case is a professor of English at Williams College and the word on the street is that she knows her English Lit.  With a background in Victorian Studies, Narrative Theory, and Gender Studies, I’m sure she has plenty of ideas about this intensely violent love story.  Or is it a hate story?  Either way, who can get enough Wuthering Heights?  Reviewers agree, that Case handles this retelling adeptly while maintaining the mystery and mood.

I truly love the trend in Brontë inspired Novels, and hope it continues.

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A Letter from Charlotte Bronte

Why I read the Brontës


Jane EyreLately, I have been immersing myself in the life of the Brontes because I am in love with their books (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) and also because Charlotte, Emily, and Anne amaze and inspire me.  These young women lived through incredible loss and hardship, (that’s a whole other blog), and still they remained loyal to their imaginations and true to themselves.  Sadly, Charlotte was the only one of her sisters who lived beyond 30, dying at 38.  Anne died at 29.  Emily at 30.  And, yet this 19th century trio of English writers left a legacy of lasting beauty and wholly original thought.  Despite the overwhelming obstacles that continually assailed them, they NEVER made excuses.  They rose above.




I am always on the look out for inspiration, which I consider a defense of the spirit, and when I came across the following letter from 16 year-old Charlotte (Jane Eyre) to her best friend Ellen Nussey, I couldn’t help being inspired by her ideals.  What strikes me is not the eloquence of the writing, but the depth of thought, desire for virtue, and love of ideas. This is a letter written by a 16 year-old girl!  Can our day and age produce teenagers capable of this mindstream? Keep in mind Charlotte was a poor clergyman’s daughter who had far less access to books and education than we do.


“Dear Ellen,

I believe we agreed to correspond once a month; that space of time has now elapsed since I received your last interesting letter, and I now therefore hasten to reply.  Accept my congratulations on the arrival of the ‘New Year’, every succeeding day of which will I trust, find you wiser and better in the true sense of those much used words. The first day of January always presents to my mind a train of very solemn and important reflections, and a question more easily asked than answered, frequently occurs, viz.: How have I improved the past year, and with what good intentions do I view the dawn of its successor? These, my dearest Ellen, are weighty considerations which (young as we are) neither you nor I can too deeply or too seriously ponder.


I am sorry your two great diffidences, arising, I think, from the want of sufficient confidence in your own capabilities, prevented you from writing to me in French, as I think the attempt would have materially contributed to your improvement in that language. You very kindly caution me against being tempted by the fondness of my sisters to consider myself of too much importance, and then in a parenthesis you beg me not to be offended. O! Ellen, do you think I could be offended by any good advice you may give me? No, I thank you heartily, and love you, if possible, better for it.


. . .


I am glad you like Kenilworth; it is certainly a splendid production, more resembling a Romance than a Novel, and in my opinion one of the most interesting works that ever emanated from the great Sir Walter [Scott’s] pen. I was exceedingly amused at the characteristic and naive manner in which you expressed your detestation of Varney’s character, so much so indeed, that I could not forbear laughing aloud when I perused that part of your letter; he is certainly the personification of consummate villainy, and in the delineation of his dark and profoundly artful mind, Scott exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature, as well as surprising skill in embodying his perceptions so as to enable others to become participators in that knowledge.


Excuse the want of news in this very barren epistle, for I really have none to communicate.  Emily and Anne beg to be kindly remembered to you.  Give my best love to your mother and sisters, and as it is very late permit me to conclude with the assurance of my unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable affection for you.

Adieu, my sweetest Ellen;
I am ever yours,
January 1, 1833


Essence of the Brontës

I came across the above letter in this fascinating and charmingly opinionated compilation of essays and letters by Muriel Spark, another writer deeply inspired by the Brontës.

“How have I improved the past year, and with what good intentions do I view the dawn of its successor?”



This letter may sound pretentious to some, but Charlotte wasn’t pretending anything–she cared intensely about all the points in her letter.  Improvement, the study of French, a love of literature, and a striving for virtue were lifelong preoccupations.  It sounds strange in today’s world of social media madness that two teenage girls could converse like this.  (How can our schools eradicate cursive?!!!)  It goes to show that we become what we direct our attention toward.  What we read or don’t read, what we watch or scan or write becomes a part of our mindstream.  Anyone who thinks it doesn’t is in denial.  Whether we elevate or degrade our own minds and therefore our spirits is entirely up to us.


No matter what we see, no matter what we suffer, we are responsible for our quality of mind.  There are no excuses.


Charlotte writes to Ellen that “Scott exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature, as well as surprising skill in embodying his perceptions so as to enable others to become participators in that knowledge.”  If only she knew at 16, that one day she too would do just that!  Her impossible dreams and lofty striving were not in vain and so, she has touched a million hearts.   Bravo Charlotte!


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