“Reader, I married him.”

The Last chapter of Jane Eyre begins with these four words, “Reader, I married him.” As if with marriage the narrator wished to close the story which started when Jane was a ten year old orphan living unhappily with her cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed, and spiteful cousins; Georgina, Eliza, and John. She later went through the deprivations and severity of Brocklhurst boarding school where she trained and later worked as a teacher. When she was eighteen, she applied for a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall where she met and fell in love with Mr. Rochester, who almost dishonoured her by preparing a bigamous marriage. He was already legally married to Bertha Mason, whom he had imprisoned in his attic. Bertha committed suicide and Jane and Rochester were finally able to celebrate a lawful wedding.

It was a Victorian convention to end novels in this way, indicating that virtue led to the stability and happiness which marriage represented. The problem here is that Mr. Rochester was neither virtuous nor stable, and every reader is aware of that. Whether you believe that this was the end of the story of Jane Eyre is, of course, up to the reader. This is what the narrator, Jane Eyre, a romantic and innocent twenty-year-old, thought would happen. But how reliable a narrator is Jane, the young, naïve woman who is blindly in love with Edward Rochester?

Readers have seen Edward Rochester through Jane Eyre’s eyes. She loved him in spite of his lies, and there were many of them. Rochester always denied being Adele’s father, and he insisted that he was unmarried, even in a church, as Richard Mason accused him of being betrothed to his sister. He blames everyone else for his problems; his father, his brother, Richard Mason, his first wife, and he even accuses Jane of bewitching him into loving her. Rochester is innocent in his own eyes, and he convinces Jane of his guiltlessness; this does not mean he convinces the reader. Readers make their own decisions.

Rochester is bad-tempered, conceited and aggressive. He tries to humiliate Jane when she first arrives at Thornfield and teases her mercilessly with Blanche Ingram and his other guests. He reminds her constantly that she is not attractive, “You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are.” (Chapter XXIII) He even threatens Jane with these words, ““Jane, I am not a gentle-tempered man—you forget that: I am not long-enduring; I am not cool and dispassionate. Out of pity to me and yourself, put your finger on my pulse, feel how it throbs, and—beware!” As a result of his violence she is forced to ask for God’s help, “I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity—looked for aid to one higher than man: the words “God help me!” burst involuntarily from my lips.” (Chapter XXVII) 

Jane does not finally tame him. He is rendered physically passive after the accident due to partial blindness and a stumped arm, and emotionally sunk because he has lost the two women who were sustaining his vanity and ego. When Jane finally returns, he recovers his physical and emotional strength because he is now someone’s unconditional “master” once more. The question is: how long will Jane be able to continue with the idyllic life she imagines she will lead for the rest of her days?

We can ask ourselves some questions in order to foresee how their relationship may well develop: Will Jane be content to spend the rest of her life as a recluse at Ferdean? Will Rochester be content to do the same after he recovers his sight and his health? What will happen once they have a family? Will Rochester relinquish his central role in her life in favour of a child or children? Are they really well suited? Do they have the same outlook on life? Does he have any consideration for his servants? Orphans? People in difficulty? Has he any religious beliefs as she does? Does she like hunting and inconsequential social gatherings? Their conversation was lively while they were flirting, but now the conquest has been made and mundane daily matters will take over how will “sir” react? How will the gentry of the area take to Jane? There is a large age-difference between them, what will happen when Rochester dies and she is still relatively young?

Jane is the narrator and protagonist of Jane Eyre, but the novel ends when she is still a very young woman who has a whole life ahead of her. Jane Eyre is one of the greatest characters in literary history; her life cannot end with marriage to an egotistical and dishonest member of the Victorian gentry. I wanted more. Jane Eyre, the impressionable young bride, deserves a life of her own, so I imagined Jane Rochester, the woman, and wrote her story, twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward Rochester in, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Continue reading ““Reader, I married him.””

Wide Sargasso Sea the “Prequel” to Jane Eyre by Jean Rhys

Although my main inspiration in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was Jane Eyre,  its “prequel” Wide Sargasso Sea, written over a hundred years later by Jean Rhys, has been almost equally responsible. Both novels are complimentary and it is their combined stories which have led to my “sequel” The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Jean Rhys Rhys was born in Dominica, an island of the British West Indies to a Welsh doctor and a a third-generation Creole of Scots ancestry. Rhys tells the formerly untold story of Bertha Antoinette Mason from her birth in Jamaica to her death at Thornfield Hall. Antoinette who was gagged, emprisoned, and abused in Jane Eyre, is given a voice and a life, a real life, in Wide Sargasso Sea; a life Charlotte Bronte insinuated but never told. In WSS Antoinette tells Rochester; “there is always the other side, always”, and that is the story Rhys weaves in Part One which Antoinette narrates.

Rochester narrates Part Two and is shown up as the shady, unscrupulous character he became in JE. His elder brother was to inherit the Rochester Estate, so his father arranged a marriage to a rich Jamaican heiress for Edward, his second son. Rochester disliked Jamaica and although his wife was beautiful, he was not aware that she was Creole, and it displeased him, especially after marrying her and disposing of her generous dowry. When he inherited the family Estate due to both his brother and father’s sudden deaths he decided it was time to return to England. That was when he locked Bertha away in a windowless, cold and damp attic, and then went gallavanting to France, as he himself admits to Jane.

The Third and Final Part is told once more by Antoinette who has become the “mad” Bertha and is set on burning the house and its occupants.

Bertha’s brother (half-brother in WSS), Richard Mason, is a secondary but vital character in both novels. It is Richard who oversees Rochester and Bertha’s  marriage arrangements (WSS), and it is Richard who interrupts Rochester and Jane’s bigamous marriage (JE). And it is Richard Mason who opens The Eyre Hall Trilogy bringing Mrs. Jane Rochester devastating news of his sister once more, twenty-two years after her death. Bertha’s story is not over, because Bertha and Jane are irrevocably tied to each other; they shared the same husband in the first two novels, and in my sequel they will have to share the same descendents.

I will be posting the opening page shortly.

Read my Goodreads Review of Wide Sargasso Sea

New Book Cover for All Hallows at Eyre Hall

As the final editing process is coming to a close, thanks to the invaluable help of my wonderful, generous and constructive beta readers: Roberta, Elizabeth, Tina and Karen (They will be getting a complete post soon because they deserve one!) I have decided to ask a professional web artist to design my cover. Thanks David Pedrera for understanding exactly what I needed. I wanted the cover to transmit a solitary, serene and mature yet concerned Jane Rochester. I also wanted to include a view of the great house she rebuilt after marrying Edward Rochester and having her first child: Eyre Hall. I love the subtle and watery colours which remind us of a damp autumn breeze, and convey an air of gothic mystery and contained illicit romance. The cover highlights a turning point in Jane’s life; a crucial moment during which unspeakable crimes will be revealed and shrouded mysteries will be uncovered. Supernatural forces will foreshadow the novel’s final climax as unexpected and forbidden romance will burst and devastate the inhabitants of Eyre Hall.  All Hallows 1

Always Rereading Jane Eyre

IMG-20131211-WA0010I was an impressionable teenager the first time I read Jane Eyre and I have reread it countless times since then. Every time I have reread it I have uncovered another angle or aspect in this superb manuscript. My first impression was one of awe and admiration due to the sheer power of the characters and the story. Each rereading has produced a powerful effect shifting from wonder and respect to anger and disbelief. These pendular reactions probably mirrored my own personal development and life experiences.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go through these transitions, suffice it to say that this period of veneration lasted until I read Wide Sargasso Sea, from then on Jane Eyre suffered an irreversible upheaval. The characters and events have been constructed and deconstructed in my mind obsessively to such an extent that I had to write the sequel to both novels in order to get them out of my system, and that is exactly what I did.

Now that I have written my sequel I am going to reread Jane Eyre one more time, which I’m sure will not be the last time, but it will be a very different rereading.This time I’d like to reread it publicly on this blog, as if it were my diary. I don’t know the exact shape it will take, but my plan is to write about my reflections on the whole novel as I reread it from start to finish.

Why am I doing this? Because I need to read it again, and I need to publicly record my impressions and perhaps offer new insights to myself and anyone else interested in deciphering this unequaled work of art.


%d bloggers like this: