Thursday, April 7, 2016
Review: Reader, I Married Him
Edited by Tracey Chevalier
paperback, 304 pages
a review copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours
Reader, I Married Him has everything I love in a book. Let's start with the premise: the title for this short story anthology comes from Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Jane Eyre. This is like saying the premise for the collection is a line from a letter written by a beloved friend. Edited by Tracey Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring), Reader, I Married Him is comprised of twenty-one stories by widely varied and wildly talented women writers. Each story uses Jane Eyre (and this famous sentence from the novel) as a starting point, but the stories range from close variations on the original novel to barely connected spin-offs.
Amazingly, there is not one inferior story in the whole bunch.
Helen Dunmore retells Jane's story from the point of view of Grace Poole, characterizing the small, plain governess as "a snowdrop pushing its way out of the bare earth." Grace Poole's secrets give the reader and entirely different perspective on Mr. Rochester.
In "Since First I Saw Your Face," Emma Donoghue turns to historical fiction to comment on the bonds of marriage and the passions of female friendship. This beautiful story tells of a passionate and loving relationship between two women, one of them married. And in "To Hold," by Joanna Briscoe, a woman marries, more than once, all the while maintaining a secret and fevered love affair with a female colleague.
The writer's in this volume are all at the top of their game, and are some of the most admired literary authors--with plenty of variety of style, tone, and approach. The collection includes stories by Tessa Hadley, Jane Gardam, Tracey Chevalier, Lionel Shriver, Francine Prose, Evie Wyld, and Audry Niffenegger, among others. Each story in some way comments on or connects to Jane Eyre and the confiding statement: Reader, I married him.
I would recommend this book to any reader, whether or not she has read Jane Eyre. Reader, I Married Him could be enjoyed by any reader, but I suspect this collection will spark an interest in reading (or rereading) Charlotte Bronte's riveting and original classic.