#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter1

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 1

How I came to be locked in the red-room

There was no possibility of taking a walk that chilly November afternoon.

My cousins Eliza, John and Georgina were clustered around their mother and my aunt, Mrs Reed, in the drawing room, while I was kept at a distance, accused of insolence.

I made myself at home on the window-seat in the breakfast-room, behind a heavy curtain, reading Berwick’s History of British Birds, with its eerie pictures, which told mysterious stories of marine phantoms, churchyards, torpid seas and gallows.

My cousin, John, who at fourteen was four years older and twice my size, interrupted my solitude, ordering me to return his book because I was a penniless orphan and an unwanted guest at his house.

I did as requested and he threw the book at my head with such force that I fell and hit my head on the door. Blood trickled down my neck. “You are wicked like the Roman emperors,” I said, because I had read all about Nero and Caligula in Goldsmith’s History of Rome.

He called me a rat and pulled my hair viciously. I fought him off frantically and when his mother found us; I was accused of aggressive behaviour and dragged upstairs to be locked in the red room.

The first chapter of Jane Eyre is impressive. The reader is thrust into a brave, intelligent and abused ten-year-old’s struggle to survive in a hostile world.

The story begins in Jane’s lowest moment; orphaned, unloved, bullied, physically beaten, silenced and locked in a room. It may not be a coincidence that at this precise moment, Bertha Antionetta Mason, the first Mrs Rochester, was also locked in the attic at Thornfield Hall.

We learn that Jane is an orphan who lives with her unloving aunt and nasty cousins, much like Cinderella, but with a bullying boy added to the picture. We also know she is an intelligent child who reads and understands books for adults about Roman emperors and birds.

We feel immediate compassion for the child, but we are also aware that she is not to be pitied. Jane is an intelligent and spirited girl who is prepared to face her bullies and fight for her freedom.

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.

Here’s a post I wrote about the books Jane Eyre read.

Here’s a post I wrote about the first line of Jane Eyre: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” 

I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.

So if you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 2!

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction

I regularly reread Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Sometimes the whole book, other times passages and it never gets old! There’s always something new I notice or think about. As this blog is called Rereading Jane Eyre and all my novels so far were directly influenced by Jane Eyre I thought I’d share my latest rereading on my blog this time.

But the question I asked myself was, ‘How do I breathe new life into my rereading of Jane Eyre, a novel which has been read and discussed millions of times over the last two centuries?’

Everything I could think of, such as write summaries or opinions of each chapter has already been done. On the other hand, I didn’t just want to write posts for students to pass exams or do their homework, although I’m delighted if students of English or Victorian literature drop by and get some value from my blog, after all, I am/was a teacher (once a teacher always a teacher!)

I also wanted it to be fun for me. Life’s short and wonderful, so I’m only prepared to take on projects I feel passionate about. So how could I bring renewed passion into yet another rereading of the classic?

The solution came to me suddenly, as all my best ideas do.

I enjoy writing flash fiction and I enjoy reading Jane Eyre, so why not combine both?

Photo by No Longer Here. See more of their images on Pixabay

This weekly post will include a flash fiction rewriting of each of the 38 chapters of Jane Eyre. My aim is to condense each chapter to less than 250 words and maintain the tone, style, vocabulary and content of the original novel. At the same time, each flash fiction chapter will be a complete story in itself, to be continued the following week.

The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find by clicking on the book cover.

Why Flash Fiction?

I’ve been writing flash fiction since I discovered it six years ago, and it’s definitely helped me as a writer by building awareness of the value of making every word count whatever I write. I explain this in greater detail in this post.

Who are these flash fiction chapters for?

Before I answer the question I’d like to encourage you all to read or reread Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, because it’s one of the greatest novels in the English language.

Jane Eyre is on many diverse lists of ‘Best English Novels’ and it has been giving readers all over the world hours of pleasure and inspiration for over 170 years.

However, I do appreciate that Victorian novels are three volumes long and much more slow-paced than 21st century novels, so they are not for all contemporary readers, and yet, if I can create an interest in readers with my flash fiction samples (or my novels), to read the original, that would be fabulous.

Back to the question. These posts are for anyone who has not read the novel and would like to get the feel of it, as well as people who have read it some time ago and don’t remember much, and for anyone who enjoys reading flash fiction.

I will also include a brief commentary on the chapter and some quotes and discussion questions, which may be of value to teachers, students and general readers. My aim is to keep the whole post to between 500-600 words.

So if you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.

See you next week for chapter 1!

Sequels, Prequels, Reinterpretations, Rewritings, and Writing Back…

When I am asked what my novel’s about, I reply briefly, “It’s a Victorian Gothic Romance, which takes place around All Hallows, at Eyre Hall, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre married Edward Rochester.” A typical reaction, before reading the novel, is:

“Oh, so it’s a sequel / follow-up / spin-off of the original?”

The answer is easy, “Yes, it is”, but also complex, “it’s much more than that.

Sequel, follow-up, or spin-off, are synonyms, that is they all refer to a work of literature, film, theatre, television, music, or game that continues the story of, or expands upon, an earlier work. Sequels usually portray the same fictional universe; setting, characters, and events, at a later date.

Although All Hallows at Eyre Hall is presented as the ‘Breathtaking Sequel to Jane Eyre’, it is also the sequel of Wide Sargasso Sea, because it is based on both novels. That is to say, I have taken the characters and events in both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, as my fictional reality, and the basis of my novel. The characters and events portrayed in both novels, come to life, once again, in a fictional blend, in my novel.

Just to remind you, although Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966, it is the fictional prequel to Jane Eyre, which tells the story of Bertha, Rochester’s first wife, and infamous ‘madwoman in the attic’.

In this sense, All Hallows at Eyre Hall is a sequel because it does portray a continuation of the original universe. Some of the characters are still present, some have died, and there are some new characters. The pre-existing characters are not exactly the same, because twenty-two years have passed, and fictional characters, as all people, evolve over time. The location is the same, although the specific setting has changed from Thornfield Hall, which was burnt down, to Eyre Hall, the mansion Mrs. Rochester rebuilt with the inheritance she received from her uncle, John Eyre.

Once readers have actually read it, they realize it’s not a typical sequel, and they say:

“Oh, you’ve reinterpreted / rewritten the original story.”
“Oh, you’ve written back to Charlotte Bronte.”

Well, that’s true, too. I’ve (irreverently, according to some), done all three. I am aware that my novel may disappoint some readers who had fallen in love with Edward Rochester, as Jane did. Unfortunately, I simply point out that Jane is in love with Rochester, and she is therefore an unreliable, or at least biased, narrator. On the other hand,  she gives me all the background information I use in my novel to expose Rochester as the villain he always was. This does not mean Jane and Rochester’s love story was a fake. It is one of the greatest literary love stories of all time, but that doesn’t mean they were perfect, or flawless characters.

I have reinterpreted Jane Eyre, based on reading between and closely into the lines Charlotte Bronte wrote. Jean Rhys, a Creole herself, was the first to ‘write back’ to Charlotte Bronte from a postcolonial perspective. Rhys gave voiceless, mad, imprisoned Bertha, the freedom, voice, and life, which Jane Eyre had denied her.

By incorporating Rhys’s thesis into my novel, I am indulging in the same rebellious literary trend. Moreover, I have also added to Rhys’s theories, by incorporating more subplots, which I picked up from spaces I found in the original. I can’t go into greater detail without including spoilers, but I have based my recreation on facts I found in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is is the origin of this magnificent literary creation. It is the reason why Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea, and both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, are the reason why I wrote All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Looking at the three novels, which form a trilogy in my literary imagination, they are complimentary, although they can stand on their own. Each novel can be read independently, however, as they are all part of the same story, of Jane Eyre’s story, if the three have been read (not necessarily consecutively), the reader will enjoy the experience even more.

So, have I written a sequel to Jane Eyre?

Yes, I have. I’ve written a sequel to both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, based on a close reading and subsequent reinterpretation of the characters and events portrayed in both novels. I’ve then used my own creative license, to imagine events twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage. My aim has been to reconcile both works of art. Jane and Bertha, both Mrs. Rochesters will come face to face, and over time, as my trilogy progresses, Bertha will be reinstated and the wrongs she suffered will be repaired. How? It’s all in the Eyre Hall Trilogy