Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: Reader, I Married Him edited by Tracy Chevalier

"Reader, I married him" is probably one of the most famous lines in all of English language literature. I know that my 10 year old heart thrilled to it when I first read it. And each time I read Jane Eyre after that childhood reading, I thrilled to it again. I know I'm not alone in this either. In fact, Tracy Chevalier has edited a collection of short stories written by some of the most well known women writers today all taking their inspiration from Bronte's famous masterpiece in the aptly titled collection, Reader, I Married Him.

The stories collected here range from those which are directly related to the original, Grace Poole's take on Jane in Helen Dunmore's story or Francine Prose's former governess in couples counseling who starts to wonder at so the medical professionals' interest in her own "delusions," to those which are updated and set in modern times but still clearly inspired versions, the neighbors in Lionel Shriver's tale of an invasive tree or Audrey Niggenegger's orphans. There are some stories where the connection to the original Bronte is difficult to tease out, perhaps finding inspiration in the less well known scenes of the novel. The main characters of the modern stories are very different and more diverse than in the original. The relationships depicted run the gamut from conventionally traditional to antagonistic, contentious, or resigned. They include same sex couples, heroines making choices quite opposite of Jane's, and those who invert the power structure of the original work. If the stories didn't always hew closely to Jane Eyre's story line, they each certainly tackled the larger themes at play in the original: love, dependence and independence, loneliness, marriage, the power of choice, and relationships.

Some of the stories resonated more with me than others but that is to be expected in a large collection that offers so many different takes, so many different styles, and so many different authors. The tone of the stories varies wildly with some being more Gothic and threatening than others . A few do suggest happy endings but quite a few others promise a trapped, almost claustrophobic feeling in the end, something that my ten year old self never noticed and which my older self tries to pretend isn't there (it is) in the superficially happily ever after ending of the original. This collection has an intriguing and inventive multitude of ways of looking at Jane Eyre which most Bronte fans will enjoy as long as they aren't only looking for retellings that stick faithfully to the original but want tales that allow for creative exploration and unusual takes on their much beloved novel.

For more information about the book and the authors included in it, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour and TLC page which contains links to all the authors' information, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to the publisher and Trish from TLC Book Tours.


  1. This sounds so interesting! Unfortunately, I don't like to acknowledge that Jane is trapped in any way at the end of Jane Eyre either. In all honesty, I don't really believe that she is, though I can see how one would get that reading.

    This would definitely be an intriguing read sometime.

  2. Like you, my heart thrills whenever I read that particular line... I love it so!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts