If I had to choose a favourite novel, I’d pick Jane Eyre. There’s so much to love about it! Charlotte Bronte’s writing is vibrant, the dialogue between Jane and Mr. Rochester sparks with energy, and the spooky gothic elements make the book a little darker and a little richer. And Jane herself is a marvellously complex and venerable character, full of passion and moral fortitude. In China Mieville’s words, “Charlotte Brontë’s heroine towers over those around her, morally, intellectually and aesthetically; she’s completely admirable and compelling . . . She takes a scalpel to the skin of the every day.”
Here are seven more books to try if you, like me, loved Jane Eyre:
1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Jane Eyre has an element of the gothic about it (secret wife hidden up in the attic, the mysterious communication across the miles that occurs between Jane and Mr. Rochester, etc.). For an entertaining read that pokes fun of the genre of gothic novels, try Northanger Abbey. It’s the story of Catherine Morland, a young woman whose vibrant imagination gets her into all sorts of trouble while she visits Northanger Abbey, the home of a young man she admires.
2. Adam Bede or The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot – Charlotte Bronte is an expert in exploring the mental landscape of her characters, and George Eliot is equally gifted in this regard. I read Adam Bede earlier this year and found her insights into the hearts of Adam, Hetty and Dinah very moving, and though I’m just in the early stages of reading The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot seems equally up to the task in that novel.
3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – I love the lively, witty dialogue between Jane and Mr. Rochester, and, for me, the only other book whose dialogue has come close is Gone with the Wind. Rhett Butler’s words are snappy and passionate and make you appreciate every moment of his presence.
4. Emma Brown by Clare Boylan – at her death, Charlotte Bronte left behind the first twenty pages of a novel titled Emma which Clare Boylan uses as the first two chapters of her novel that centres on the mysterious identity of a young girl deposited at a small boarding school. The book is a little melodramatic, and a fair bit of 21st century sensibilities seep through, but it’s still fun to read and to wonder where Charlotte Bronte would have taken the story.
5. The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery – the feel of Jane Eyre and The Blue Castle are totally different, but there are a few similarities between the novels, namely the oppressive households in which orphans Jane and Valancy are raised, and the unorthodox road to love they each take. Plus the happy endings in both novels are sweetly satisfying.
6. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – there’s a small element of the fairytale in Jane Eyre: she’s thinking of the Gytrash (a North-of-England spirit) when she meets Mr. Rochester, and afterwards he frequently refers to her appearance as unearthly and elf-like, even suggesting that she bewitched his horse. If you’d like to dive straight into a fairytale, try Daughter of the Forest, a loose retelling of The Six Swans in which a young woman must maintain complete silence while weaving shirts from nettles in order to return her brothers to human form.
7. The Brontes by Juliet Barker – a comprehensive and compelling biography of Branwell, Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte. Well over 1000 pages, it’s a daunting book, but it’s fascinating reading for anyone interested in learning more about Charlotte Bronte’s life. Particularly intriguing are the passages about the elaborate imaginary worlds the siblings created and the unexpected and tender romance near the end of Charlotte’s life.
I’m linking up with the Broke and the Bookish again today. See more “Ten Books for Readers Who Liked . . . ” posts there!