Jane Eyre is one of my favorite all-time novels. Equally intriguing to me is the life of Charlotte Bronte and her sisters, Emily, and Anne. When I was given the opportunity to review this collection of stories inspired by one of the most famous lines from Jane Eyre – I quickly took it! I am also nearing the end of listening to the audiobook version of Jane Eyre which fit perfectly with also reviewing this collection.
I am a big fan of short stories. This collection contains twenty-one short stories that are all supposed to take their inspiration from the line Reader, I married him. The stories ranged wide in topics, settings, and time periods and I enjoyed that. I did wonder how some of the stories were supposed to be inspired by the “Reader, I married him” line.
I’ll admit that many of my favorite stories in this collection actually contained the characters from Jane Eyre. Summaries of my favorite stories are below:
Foreword by Tracy Chevalier
Chevalier’s forward gives a great overview of Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte and just how game changing the quote, “Reader, I married him” was when Jane Eyre is originally published. She also describes how the authors used this quote as inspiration for their short story. She also includes my favorite Jane Eyre quote,
“I am no bird; no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Luxury Hour by Sarah Hall
A tired new mother has one luxury hour a day where she takes a swim at a neighborhood pool. While there one day she meets a former lover and has a moment where she thinks of herself as the single, carefree woman she was before marriage, childbirth, and breastfeeding. I thought this was a great story that really captures the downtimes that I think all mother’s experience.
A great quote, “She could barely look at him; the past was restoring itself too viscerally. Since the baby she had felt nothing, no desire, not even sorrow that this part of her life had vanished, perhaps for good.”
Grace Poole Her Testimony by Helen Dunmore
I loved this story which added another element to the story of Jane Eyre. Told from Grace Poole’s perspective, she is sure that Jane Eyre has gotten the true story wrong. Grace Poole guards the former Mrs. Rochester upstairs, but she was once a beautiful girl herself that captured the fancy of Mr. Rochester. I loved the twist at the end of this story.
To Hold by Joanna Briscoe
Talk about twisted endings, this one beats all others in this collection. A beautiful young girl is dressed and educated by her parents to capture the attention of the nearby rich land owner Tay-Mosby. She does not appear to and instead marries “the lad who worked for his parents’ motor garage.” Life then moves in mysterious ways and she moves through different husbands to a truth that was not known at the beginning of the story. I can’t say more without ruining the tale!
It’s a Man’s Life, Ladies by Jane Gardam
I loved this story of a grandchild trying to determine what makes their grandmother tick. The grandmother, Gertrude, had been married to a captain who loved the sea, and she spent most of her life on land with her children and sisters. The captain died not leaving her much to live on at his death. Her grandchild tries to puzzle out why she married her grandfather and she says, “O, I was lucky, you know, to get anyone. I was what they called ‘an old bride’ of twenty-six. Of course I married him. Everyone needs to keep something private from their families.”
Reader, I Married Him by Susan Hill
A great short story told by Wallis Simpson’s perspective on her marriage to King Edward VIII. I loved this quote, “But there was truth among the lies. They said I was ambitious, hard and ruthless and would stop at nothing to get what I wanted. They did not know what that was of course. How could they?”
The Mirror by Francine Prose
Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester are married, but their marriage is troubled. She believes in the mad wife in the attic and he does not. Couples therapy ensues.
The China from Buenos Aires by Patricia Park
Teresa has moved to New York City from Argentina. With her parents originally from Korea living in Argentina, and Teresa growing up in Argentina, she feels she doesn’t fit in with either Chinese or Hispanics in NYC. She runs into a boy she never looked twice at at home, Juan, and they strike up a friendship. When her father’s health and finances take a turn for the worse, Teresa has choices to make about life and her relationship with Juan. My favorite quote, “The sooner you stop caring so much, the sooner you can start to live.”
Reader, She Married Me by Salley Vickers
The ending told from Edward Rochester’s point of view. He is sure that Jane is writing their story and leaving out his version of events, which includes a very sad back story on his marriage to Bertha and the reason for her madness. “I have heard since that childbirth can send a woman mad but at the time I was on my own in a foreign country with no one to consult.”
Dorset Gap by Tracy Chevalier
Dorset Gap is a cute story of a couple hiking and finding a log to sign. Ed thinks of a creative quote to add.
The Mash-up by Linda Grant
A wedding does not go as planned. “Better for a wedding to go a little wrong; better, even for it to be a disaster, for it foreshadows all of the times that are to come. Marriage is not a romantic fantasy, its hard work.”
The Self-Seeding Sycamore by Lionel Shriver
I’m not sure how this story fits into the theme, but I loved it. A recent widow has problem with her neighbor’s self-seeding sycamore which sends many seedlings to wreck her garden. Her solution gets things out of hand and teaches her that first impressions are not always accurate.
The Orphan Exchange by Audrey Niffenegger
This story of experimentation on orphans in WWII England is more than a little creepy.
Overall, Reader I Married Him has a great collection of unique stories with a variety of different characters, ages, settings, and topics. I don’t think the theme quite unified them, but I did enjoy them, especially the stories that had characters from Jane Eyre included.
Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow – Thanks!