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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.

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

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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.

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

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Jane Steel by Lyndsay Faye

 

Jane Steele and similarities Bronte

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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.

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

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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.

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

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But as Ms. Steele says in her defense,

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

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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.

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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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