Favorite Books Etc

So today the weather finally dipped below 100 degrees here! In fact–it is actually in the 80s, and raining! I can go outside again! Hooray! It also appears my reading and post-RWA writing slumps are done (for now, anyway). I’ve passed the halfway mark on the WIP and am also fiddling around with the 1920s project, and have read not one but TWO wonderful books: the historical mystery The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (a terrific early 1950s British setting and a smart-mouthed “detective” combined with seriously witty writing) and the Restoration romance Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James. (When I finished it, I immediately ran to the email and lured Judith James to the blog–she’ll be here next Tuesday, the 31st, to tell you all more about this fabulous, fabulous book).

And until I got a box of author copies yesterday I forgot I have a September release! Improper Ladies is another re-issue of two of my Signet Regencies, The Golden Feather (a Bookseller’s Best Award winner) and The Rules of Love (a RITA nominee!). Isn’t the cover girl’s hair gorgeous?? (I’m giving away a copy over at my own blog–tell me about your favorite Regency story for a chance to win…)

I also read that on this day in 1847, Charlotte Bronte finished writing Jane Eyre. Like many history junkies, this is one of my all-time favorite books ever, and one I never tire of re-reading. I vividly remember my first encounter with Jane. I was about 9 or 10, and had been long hooked on stuff like The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and the Betsy-Tacy books, so was always looking for stories with similar settings. (I had also just read my very first Austen, Emma, and was ripe for more 19th century literature). I found a battered paperback copy of Jane Eyre in a box at a garage sale, thought “Yes, I’ve heard of this!” and dragged it home to start reading. I stayed up all night (yes, with a flashlight, hiding under the bed) reading, and was shocked (shocked!!) by Bertha in the attic. I was totally addicted.

My mother then aided and abetted this obsession by finding a VHS tape of the Timothy Dalton Jane Eyre series, which I watched over and over, and I used my allowance to buy as many Victorian novels as I could find at the bookstore. (I tried Wuthering Heights next, but was still too young for it–I didn’t come to appreciate it until much later. But I did like Bleak House and Mill on the Floss, strangely).

There are many, many (many, many, many) versions of Jane Eyre to be found out there. In movies, there’s a silent version from 1915 called The Castle of Thornfield and a 1926 German film called Orphan of Lowood (I haven’t seen it, but have these wonderful visions of JE as Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), a 1963 Mexican feature called El Secreto and a 1972 Indian movie Shanti Nilyam. Here are a few a little closer to home:

1983–Timothy Dalton as Rochester and Zelah Clarke as Jane (still my favorite version, since I saw it first! I love how so much of the dialogue from the book is in place and how true it is to the spirit of the story…)

1997–Ciaran Hinds (Captain Wentworth!) and Samantha Morton (I like this one, but not as much as I thought I would when I first starting watching it)

1996–A Franco Zeffirelli-directed version starring William Hurt and French icon Charlotte Gainsbourg (it’s been so long since I’ve seen this I remember very little about it)

1944–Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine (and a very young Elizabeth Taylor)

2006–Toby Stephens as “Mr. Rochester as hottie” and Ruth Wilson

And one coming soon in 2011, starring Mia Wasikowska (from Alice in Wonderland) as Jane

Plus there are sequels, continuations, inspired-by books, Jane as paranormal hero, muscials, operas, etc etc….






When did you first read Jane Eyre? What’s your favorite of the adaptations? And what good books have you read lately???

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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Monica Burns
12 years ago

I read Jane Eyre when I was in my early teens. I fell in love with Rochester then and will always adore him. I have a number of Jane Eyre DVDs, and I’m dying to get my hands on the one with Toby. He totally nailed the cruelty that Rochester had at times with his treatment of Jane, which I can dismiss because I knew he was struggling to keep from losing his heart to her. See…I can run on ad nausem about the character. Good post!

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

I first read Jany Eyre at about age 11 or so. I remember liking it a lot — loved the setting and the surprise crazy wife-in-the-attic, but even then I thought Jane’s collapsing right where her long lost cousins could find her was way too coincidental. Still thought so when I reread it a few years ago.
I also remember the Orson Welles version, seen as a child on TV. I still remember Elizabeth Taylor in her brief role. She had an impact on me more than the rest of the movie.

Susanna Fraser
12 years ago

I first read Jane Eyre at 11 or 12, and at the time was much more interested in the early sections about her childhood than anything to do with Mr. Rochester! I’ve never actually seen any of the film adaptations.

As for what I’ve ready lately, I just finished an unusual and compelling YA coming-of-age novel called Assiniboin Girl, and I’m starting to catch up on the Temeraire series. I’d fallen behind, but I’m now two chapters or so into Victory of Eagles.

Cara King
12 years ago

I first read Jane Eyre at thirteen for a book report, and I loved it! Then I changed schools, and read it again the next year in class — which I didn’t mind at all. 🙂

I confess I still haven’t seen the Toby Stephens version, but I do want to. (I tend to classify the adaptations by the Rochester, because in general I’ve thought the Janes were too pretty but mostly okay…but the Rochesters really vary.)

When I heard about William Hurt playing Rochester I was quite scornful, but I ended up liking his interpretation quite a bit!

I also found I liked Orson Welles’ Rochester better than I expected. (Like Toby Stephens and Timothy Dalton, he too is a Rochester who played villains as often as heroes on screen, which I think is no accident!)

And I agree, Amanda, that IMHO the Dalton version is overall the best of those I’ve seen.

Cara

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Monica, I think you’re very right about Toby Stephens’ interpretation of Rochester–I thought he was pretty great in the role (and the Jane was good too, as well as most of the secondary characters. Even if it went with more rolling around on riverbanks and less talking, LOL)

Susanna, I love the Temeraire series, though I’m also behind! I think I have two to read now, but maybe I’m just hoarding them…

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

Like you I read Jane Eyre when I was nine or ten and it has been one of my all time favorites ever since. I have the Timothy Dalton version on VHS and I have nearly worn it out. Need to get it on DVD as it is still the gold standard in my mind. I haven’t seen the one with dear Toby yet, but I do look forward to it. Rochester truly is the model for all gothic heroes in my eyes.

Actually I just finished a book I am reading with my niece. We do this often, read a book at the same time so we can discuss it later. She is sixteen so I have read quite a bit of YA thanks to her. BUT, our latest is Coroner’s Journal – Forensics and the Art of Stalking Death by Louis Cataldie (the man who headed up the identification of the bodies in New Orleans after Katrina.) We chose it because she has decided to pursue a career in forensic investigations and I thought she might want to know what she was getting into. It was a fascinating read and very well written.

For myself I am almost finished with Tessa Dare’s Three Nights with a Scoundrel. Lovely romance and beautifully written.

oneredboot
12 years ago

Jean Rhys wrote a fabulous, beautiful, sad novel about Rochester’s mad wife–a truly successful literary intervention and my favorite of that genre. Rhys imagines Bertha as a young woman in the Caribbean, surrounded by the post-Emancipation social and economic decay of white European society in Jamaica. The book traces her encounter with Rochester and her dislocation to England. It’s quite haunting, but so very beautifully written and compelling. If you’ve not read any Jean Rhys, you’re in for a treat. The first time I read this I stayed up all night to finish it.

oneredboot
12 years ago

Sorry–forgot to include the title: “Wide Sargasso Sea.”

Anesthezea
12 years ago

Excellent post! I have the Dalton movie version in my Netflix queue, it’s sitting there amidst a few other BBC adaptations, mostly from Jane Austen.

I think I read Jane Eyre somewhere around 11 or 12. My great-grandmother gave me her copy to read while I was visiting one day – a small-sized hardback from 1944. I read it so often when I visited her that she gave it to me in the end. I slept with it under my pillow for the longest time. 🙂

Susan/DC
Susan/DC
12 years ago

Oneredboot beat me to the reference to “Wide Sargasso Sea”. That book is odd, evocative, and fascinating, and anyone who loves Jane Eyre should probably read it.

I love Ciaran Hinds but couldn’t watch his version of JE. I thought he was sex-on-a-stick in “Ivanhoe”, but the muttonchop whiskers were totally offputting and scream the opposite of Romance Hero to me.

Loved the Toby Stephens version. The actress who played Jane fit my conception of how Jane looks, neither pretty nor ugly, just plain. I’ve seen photos of her in contemporary clothes and hair style, and she was much prettier. Like the whiskers on the men, it’s hard to imagine that anyone ever thought center-parted, scraped back hair was a Good Look.