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Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre
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March 2018 > Reader, I Married Him discussion

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Ellen | 224 comments First off, I'd like to know who has read Jane Eyre, the original book by Charlotte Bronte which inspired all of the short stories in this book we read for this month?

And if you want, please give a sentence or two about your relationship to Jane Eyre, like many of the authors did in the section at the back (Notes on the Contributors).

I love the book Jane Eyre, which is why I chose this book for us to read and discuss. I probably read Jane Eyre first when I was in junior high (7th or 8th grade) and I have re-read it a couple times since then. During my first read, I confess I liked the part best where the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester was developing. But on later reads when I was older, I liked the part at Lowood where Jane and Helen become fast friends best.

Marlies Borzynski | 61 comments I read Jane Eyre too, actually just last year for the first time. I loved it so I was a little disappointed by some of the stories in Reader, I Married Him. I have to confess, I read that book after Jane Eyre so it probably wasn't the best thing to do since usually the originals are the best.

Medlibrarian | 9 comments I have read Jane Eyre about 6 times. Only 2 were by choice. The first was when I was a teenager and I felt I should read it. I was an English major and somehow ended up having to read it about 4 times for 4 different classes. The last time was when I was about 40 and I felt I should still give it another chance. I have disliked it pretty intensely all 6 times.

Ellen | 224 comments I confess the idea that these stories were "inspired" by Jane Eyre was a bit difficult for me to see with some of them. Some were very clear, because actual Jane Eyre characters were named in the story (The Orphan Exchange; Reader, She Married Me; The Mirror; Grace Poole, Her Testimony).

I liked some of these stories about actual characters from Jane Eyre. But some I really did not like, since they seemed to try to mess with my feelings about the original novel. For example, I did not like Reader, She Married Me. It is told from Mr. Rochester's perspective and he portrays Jane as rather calculating and manipulative. This contrasted markedly with my view of Jane as very straightforward and honest, if a bit naive at times.

Any reactions to any of the stories I mentioned above? Or any others, of course :-)

Ellen | 224 comments For those of you who do not like Jane Eyre, please tell us why.

Kath | 203 comments Mod
I've read Jane Eyre once or twice but have to say it has been ages ago and I most remember her relationship with Mr. Rochester. I re-read a recap of the plot to refresh my memory.

I'm enjoying the different stories (still have a few to go) and they seem to swirl around the original story for me and bring up shadows of what I remember. There are a few of the stories where I have to say I am less clear on the connection to Jane Eyre but this is likely because my reading of the original was so long ago.

Kath | 203 comments Mod
Ellen, I agree that the portrayal of Jane as super manipulative in Reader, She Married Me was not at all how I felt about the original Jane. Or about Rochester -- he certainly was not the weak character worn down by Jane's indomitable will like that story. I found the story mildly amusing in that take but nothing more.

One of the stories I couldn't really connect to the original was Behind the Mountain told from the perspective of a wife in post-war Canada who is intrigued by Annie the mountain woman maimed by a bear... any help on that one?

Medlibrarian | 9 comments Ellen wrote: "For those of you who do not like Jane Eyre, please tell us why."

I think it's twofold for me. In the first place, I have never really been able to like Jane herself. In a book that is very much about Jane Eyre, that doesn't leave me with a whole lot else. Who else is there to like? St. John "You're ugly and I'm in love with someone else, but you're a hard worker so come and live with me in poverty and hardship" Rivers? Mr. Rochester?

And secondly, the ideals of the evangelical movement at the time don't resonate with me. Jane is wildly mistreated at Lowood and then when the students become ill, there's an ideal personified by Helen Burns of passive acceptance and that is so not anything I have ever been able to accept, let alone embrace.

Ellen | 224 comments Michelle--You have some really good, well thought out reasons for not liking Jane Eyre. Usually I hear "It's depressing" which is so very true.

To be honest, I don't know if I can put my finger on why I like Jane Eyre so much (in spite of the depressing thing and the book's many faults!). I agree with Michelle's points. But I think it's Jane's ability to rise above it all and keep on going that makes me like her and the book.

Ellen | 224 comments I agree with you, Kath, about the Behind the Mountain story. Not only could I not connect it to Jane Eyre, but it just struck me as sort of odd and a bit pointless. There were a few stories like that for me in this compilation.

I really liked a couple of the stories:

Luxury Hour: I'm not clear on the Jane Eyre connection with this one either. But I just liked the palpable mood that the story created for me. The description of the pool was sort of dreamlike and the remembrance of her past held regret, but then she was able to put it in perspective.

The Self-Seeding Sycamore: Again the Jane Eyre connection was unclear. But I liked the matter-of-fact Burt character. The widow, Jeannette, was stubborn and wanted things to stay the same after her husband's death. But eventually her stubbornness met Burt's and the outcome was a happy one.

What was your favorite story? (or stories)

Ellen | 224 comments Any comments on what you like (or not) about short story collections in general?

Of course it depends on the quality of the stories. I don't seem to read short stories very often, except for the single ones that appear in magazines. In terms of collections, the ones I usually hear about are collections by one author.

My favorite of the few short story collections I have read is Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. My other book club read it a few years back and we all enjoyed it.

This Reader, I Married Him collection was rather erratic, IMHO. There were probably only a half dozen out of the 21 that I liked. The rest were either ho-hum or mystifying to me, both in their connection to Jane Eyre and their purpose overall.

One thing I love about a really good short story is the way that it can create a mood and get you familiar with the characters in an efficient and effective way.


message 12: by Kath (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kath | 203 comments Mod
Ellen, I also really liked the Luxury Hour story and strangely the Behind the Mountain has stuck with me as well. I felt similarly, that I was only engaged with about 5 or 6 stories and the others kind of drifted by.

I also don't read short stories often; I generally keep a collection or two around for when I only have a brief time to read and they are generally themed collections (like Irish authors). Although there are a few authors whose collections of stories or essays I really enjoy and regularly read like George Saunders, Sarah Vowell and Jim Harrison. I think I struggled with Lincoln in the Bardo at first because it felt a bit too long -- I'm more used to Saunders in short story form.

Ellen | 224 comments Lincoln in the Bardo was so different in its structure that it was a bit tough for me to acclimate to. I ended up liking the content, but not the way it was delivered.

I would like to read more George Saunders though. Is there an essay collection of his you would most recommend, Kath?

message 14: by Kath (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kath | 203 comments Mod
I really loved his most recent story collection Tenth of December but the others are equally interesting.

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