Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Inspired by the Brontës

It was Charlotte Brontë's 200th birthday on April 21st, 2016. I'm definitely a Brontë fan, and I thought a gathering of Brontë-inspired books would be a fun way to celebrate. We've got contemporary retellings here, historical retellings, fantasy, and women's fiction. There's a Brontë-inspired book for everyone.

Cathy Earnshaw in the American West:
In a small Missouri town on the eve of the Civil War, wild and passionate Catrina finds a naked, fevered man wandering through her father's sorghum crop. The family takes him in, and, because he cannot remember his name, they name him Stonefield after the place where he was found. (Clever right? Heathcliff becomes Stonefield.) I felt that this adaption of Wuthering Heights was missing something, and I think that something might have to do with the setting. The moor is character in its own right in Emily Brontë's classic, and it adds a creepy and otherwordly quality that I missed in Christy Lenzi's debut. Stone Field was out March 29th, 2016. Copy from my local library.

The Young Brontës:
Living in relative isolation on the Yorkshire moors, the Brontë siblings, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, keep themselves entertained by writing stories about fictional lands. However, their fictional worlds are much more real to them than anyone suspects because the Brontë siblings routinely crossover to their worlds and direct and experience the stories from within. Influenced by the stories the Brontës wrote in their youths, Lena Coakley's book is a fun mix of history and fantasy. And, as I really enjoy historical fantasy, books that insert fantastical elements into the real world, the Brontës, and Haworth, for me, this book was a real treat. The spooky plot was spine-tingling too. Worlds of Ink and Shadow is out January 5th, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley

Journey to Haworth:
Lucy Alling sells rare books and her methods are dubious. Her dishonesty ruins her relationship with her boyfriend, James, but forges a connection between Lucy and James's grandmother, Helen. Helen hires Lucy for a trip to England where she hopes to make amends for a past wrong. The journey is filled with soul searching, and much of Lucy's self-discovery takes place on the moors of Haworth where she visits the Brontës Parsonage. The Brontë Plot is definitely a book for people who love British literature, especially the Brontës's books. I love how  Katherine Reay's writing makes the reader feel like a tourist. The Brontë Plot was out in November 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.

Jane Eyre, Murderess:
Jane Steele begins her story by telling her readers about how, upon reading Jane Eyre, she was struck by the similarities between her life and Jane's, expecting one distinct and rather glaring difference: whereas Jane Eyre overcame her tormentors with forbearance and virtue, Jane Steele murdered them. I love how self-conscious this book is in its nod to Charlotte Brontë's classic and yet how it also mirrors and parallels Jane Eyre in subtle and delectable ways. I love Jane's voice and the period feel. Once Jane became Mr. Thornfield's governess I was reminded of another classic, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, because of all the ties to India and lost jewels. Smart and sassy, Lyndsay Faye's book is a fun romp. Jane Steele was out March 22nd, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

Jane Eyre in a Contemporary Setting:
Jane, upon her parents' sudden death, finds herself without much money thanks to her very self-absorbed siblings. Forced to drop out of school to earn her living, she is hired to be the nanny for rock star Nico Rathburn's daughter almost exclusively on her practical personality and lack of interest in celebrity. April Lindner's Jane follows Jane Eyre to a tee, thus there are very few surprises, but the beauty of the story is in its contemporaneity. Lindner's Jane has the same personality as Charlotte Brontë's. Lindner's recasting of Rochester as a rock star is allows Nico to be eccentric, passionate, creative, scandalous, volatile, and extremely wealthy. 

All books reviewed by JoLee.

P.S. You also might enjoy "Reading on a Theme: Inspired by the Classics": here and here.

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