READER, I MARRIED HIM is a short story collection inspired
by the famous Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This collection
offers stories from several popular authors, including Emma
Donoghue and Helen Dunmore. The stories range from ones
featuring exact characters from Jane Eyre, such as Jane
herself and Grace Poole, to stories that take a theme or
idea from Jane Eyre and run with it.
Out of pure coincidence, I read Jane Eyre for the first time
shortly before receiving this book for review. I fell quite
hard for Jane's story, so I was tremendously excited to
start this collection of short stories inspired by her. The
forward by Tracy Chevalier gives an excellent introduction
to Jane Eyre and the collection, discussing why readers have
so long loved the book. One of the most important notes in
the forward is that this collection is not a series of short
retellings of Jane Eyre. Some stories are extensions or
reimagings of the tale, but many, if not most, focus on a
shared theme, concept, or symbol.
The first story, "My Mother's Wedding" by Tessa Hadley, is
delightfully unusual. The setting is nearly the exact
opposite of Jane's time. Here we have a sort of cult with
the whole package: drugs, nudity, dancing, and strange
relations. However, the inspiration of a woman choosing her
own path is clear.
My favorite story is "Grace Poole Her Testimony" by Helen
Dunmore. This story gets inside Grace Poole's head, the
woman who worked for Mr. Rochester. Dunmore imagines Grace
Poole as Mr. Rochester's previous lover, before Jane Eyre
ever arrived. Dunmore's version fits with the original so
well that it made me wonder what Charlotte Bronte herself
would think. Another story I favor also dives into the
original story more than others: "The Mirror" by Francine
Prose. This short is an extension of the original from
Jane's perspective, which will likely satisfy readers who
never trusted Mr. Rochester. Readers get a glimpse of what
may have happened after the marriage, and whether Jane was
as unique to Mr. Rochester as he said or if she was another
wife doomed to a dark fate.
Other stories take a hard look at the institution of
marriage itself, in both positive and negative lights. "To
Hold" by Joanna Briscoe is a heartbreaking tale of a woman
who marries several times because she can't be with the
woman she loves. It shows different ways in which
relationships work, and the different reasons a person may
have for getting married.
Those who love Jane Eyre will find their imaginations
sparked again and again with READER, I MARRIED HIM. For
those who didn't love it or have not read it, there are
still sure to be stories of high entertainment that offer
themes to enjoy or different perspectives on characters they
may not have liked.
This collection of original stories by today’s finest women
writers—including Tracy Chevalier, Francine Prose, Elizabeth
McCracken, Tessa Hadley, Audrey Niffenegger, and more—takes
inspiration from the opening line in Charlotte Brontë’s most
beloved novel, Jane Eyre.
A fixture in the literary canon, Charlotte Brontë is revered
by readers all over the world. Her novels featuring
unforgettable, strong heroines still resonate with millions
today. And who could forget one of literature’s best-known
lines: “Reader, I married him” from her classic novel
Part of a remarkable family that produced three acclaimed
female writers at a time in 19th-century Britain when few
women wrote, and fewer were published, Brontë has become a
great source of inspiration to writers, especially women,
ever since. Now in Reader, I Married Him, twenty of
today’s most celebrated women authors have spun original
stories, using the opening line from Jane Eyre as a
springboard for their own flights of imagination.
Reader, I Married Him will feature stories by:
Unique, inventive, and poignant, the stories in Reader,
I Married Him pay homage to the literary genius of
Charlotte Brontë, and demonstrate once again that her
extraordinary vision continues to inspire readers and writers.