#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte #BookReview #Victorian @Audible #Audiobooks

I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall too many years ago, in my teens, when I read all the Bronte sisters’ novels, but I just couldn’t for the life of me remember much about the story. So, as the version I read, narrated by  Alex Jennings and Jenny Agutter was on Audible Included, which means that as a member, I could listen for free, I decided to have a go at the audio version. I wasn’t surprised when I was hooked immediately, I’ll tell you why right away.  

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Audiobook By Anne Brontë cover art

From the Blurb

Fleeing a disastrous marriage, Helen Huntingdon retreats to the desolate mansion, Wildfell Hall, with her son, Arthur. There, she makes her living as a painter. Finding it difficult to avoid her neighbors, she is soon an object of speculation and gossip. Brontë portrays Helen’s eloquent struggle for independence at a time when society defined a married woman as her husband’s property.

Before I start my review, I’d like to tell you why I love Audible. I know I’ve told you many times already, but it’s even better now! My monthly credit allows me to buy one audiobook of my choice every month, plus there are daily deals and frequent sales and two for the price of one offers, plus there are loads of free listens in the ‘Included’ catalogue, which has new additions every week, and there are podcasts.

And I love to listen to audiobooks while I work out, go for walks, do the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, clearing out cubboards, and much more! Here’s more information, in case you’re interested. (By the way, I have no commercial affiliation to Audible, I just wanted to share how great I think it is!) 

My Review

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was easy for me to enjoy. You all know how much I love Victorian Fiction, and as I had completely forgotten about the plot, it was like reading it for the first time. 

It’s a very long, three volume novel, as was the custom of the time. It is over 800 pages and over16 hours of narration time. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Bronte sisters. Her first novel was Agnes Grey, which I only vaguely remember, so I’ll probably be reading it again, soon, too.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym of Acton Bell. Although it was very successsful, it was considered the most shocking of the Brontë’s novels, and I can’t imagine why, because the main female character, Helen, is so very pious that she is at times quite nausiating. In fact, I was often furious with her subservient behaviour, especially in the third part of the novel, but more about that in a moment.

The first volume is narrated by Gilbert Markham (by the way, one of my new favourite romance heroes!), who is telling his friend about how he came to meet the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. He was intrigued and fascinated by Helen Graham, a beautiful and aloof, young widow, who moved into the crumbling, old Hall, with her young son, Arthur. They do eventually (very eventually), become friends, but then she becomes the target of local gossip and it is discovered that she is not a widow, because her husband is alive.

The second volume is narrated by Helen, who gives Gilbert all the letters she wrote from when she met her husband to the moment she left him. Here she shows herself to be a devoted wife, who is in love with an unworthy husband, and although she put up with a lot of psychlogical and some physical abuse, she was finally strong-willed and determined enough to abandon him.

This part of the novel certainly gives us a clear insight to the life of the country gentry and servants of the era, as well as the submission of women, even wealthy women, to their husbands,  fathers and religious notions of women’s piety.  I both pitied and admired Helen at this point, because I thought I was going to read a 19th century, #MeToo novel, and I almost did, but as I read the third part I discovered I was wrong. 

This third part, narrated by Gilbert, describes how she returned to her husband and what happens afterwards, but I won’t spoil it for you by telling you how the ending comes about. I will tell you I was exasperated with both Gilbert and Helen, and her brother, but especially with Helen, for being so obstinate and submissive. So, although I did enjoy the ending, I found it was not the feminist novel I had been expecting to read.   

A modern editor would have reduced the novel by half, even I, lover of Victorian literature, was impatient for something to happen and maddened by the going round in circles of the same events, and long drawn out conversations, which did not move the plot forward a single inch! 

There are two major difficulties in reading this type of Victorian fiction, for the modern reader; in the first place the excessive length, verbosity and repetition of certain parts, and on the other hand, the cultural and emotional distance, with contemporary readers. The later makes it hard to understand or sympathize with their passive acceptance of patriarchy, gender differences and medieval attitude to religion, and the former can become frustrating.  

However, there was one aspects that reminded me of contemporary society; harmful and spiteful gossip and blatant lies, which still occurs today, except nowadays it would spread on social media, instead parlours and at sunday service.   

I would recommend the audio version, because it brings the characters and events to life and makes the tedious parts more enjoyable (and you can speed them up!).

I hope I haven’t put you off, because it really is worth reading. The prose flows smoothly and the vocabulary and expressions are gorgeous, and you will be rewarded with an authentic, first-hand glimpse of what life was really like for women, men and children, in Victorian England. 

Have you read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? What was your impression?

 

 

 

#MothersDay ‘Jane Eyre’s Mother’ #MondayBlogs #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre is the most famous female, literary orphan in English literature, but what do we know about Jane Eyre’s mother?

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Surprisingly, for a character who doesn’t appear in the novel and is hardly mentioned, we know a great deal. We know her name and maiden surname, how and we she died, who and why she married, a few things about her family and some significant aspects of her personality.

The first time her mother is mentioned, Jane is at her uncle, Mr Reed’s house. Jane tells the reader:

I could not remember him (Mr Reed); but I knew that he was my own uncle—my mother’s brother— that he had taken me when a parentless infant to his house;

Consequently we know that her mother’s maiden name was Reed and that her husband’s surname was Eyre. We also learn that Jane has no memories of her father, her mother or her uncle, because she was an infant when they died.

Jane also tells us about the effect that the lack of loving parents or relatives affected her personality. Well before Freud identified and shared his theories regarding the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind, Jane Eyre was fully that her parents’ absence was affecting her moods and character were due to factors beyond her control, within her psyche.

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Ten year-old Jane tells Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary, called in by Mrs.
Reed when she fainted after being punished and locked in the red room:

I am unhappy,—very unhappy, for other things.’

‘What other things? Can you tell me some of them?’

How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity of  relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause, contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true response.

‘For one thing, I have no father or mother, brothers or sisters.’

Jane describes herself as unhappy because she is missing the family she doesn’t have. A contemporary psychologist might suggest that, as an orphan, Jane was vulnerable and predisposed to physical and psychological risks such as depression and antisocial behaviour, and would probably need counselling. Instead she was plunged into an unloving household, where she was demeaned, neglected and physically and psychologically abused. There could have been many outcomes to her future personality, she could have sunk into disruptive behaviour or swam to the surface as a stronger, fiercely independent, determined and kind person.

There were many real and literary orphans in Victorian Literature. Here’s some more information in two previous posts including information about orphans in Victorian England

Jane Eyre found out about her parents’ death and bad relationship with her maternal grandfather, Mr. Reed, from Bessie, a servant at her aunt’s house. Bessie in turn had learnt this information from another, older servant at the house, Miss Abbot.

“On that same occasion I learned, for the first time, from Miss Abbot’s communications to Bessie, that my father had been a poor clergyman; that my mother had married him against the wishes of her friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a shilling; that after my mother and father had been married a year, the latter caught the typhus fever while visiting among the poor of a large manufacturing town where his curacy was situated, and where that disease was then prevalent: that my mother took the infection from him, and both died within a month of each other.”

This passage informs us that her mother married a clergyman for love, against her family’s wishes. Jane was aware that her mother valued love over social convention or economic stability.

Nine years later, while Jane is working at Thornfield, she was called to visit her Aunt Reed, who was on her deathbed. Jane took the opportunity to ask her why her aunt hated her so much.

‘I had a dislike to her (Jane’s) mother always; for she was my husband’s only sister, and a great favourite with him: he opposed the family’s disowning her when she made her low marriage; and when news came of her death, he wept like a simpleton. He would send for the baby; though I entreated him rather to put it out to nurse and pay for its maintenance. I hated it (referring to Jane)  the first time I set my eyes on it…’

Thus Jane learns that her aunt had hated her mother and that she was jealous of her husband’s affection towards the helpless baby.

In summary, we know that Jane Eyre’s mother, Mrs Eyre, née Jane Reed, was beloved by her brother, Jane’s Uncle Reed, who had been a well-to-do magistrate, before his premature death. We also know she was estranged by her parents for marrying a clergyman, Mr Eyre, whom they considered was below her station. We know she married for love, that Jane was born nine months after their marriage and was a three-month old baby when her parents died, a year after marrying. Mrs Jane Reed Eyre died of typhus, a disease contracted by her husband first. We can infer that she was a passionate, independent and determined woman, who was prepared to turn her back on her family and material comforts, in order to marry the man she loved.

It surprises me that Jane only mentioned missing her mother once as a ten-year-old child and never mentioned her mother as an adult. Grown up Jane seemed to have completely wiped her mother out of her thoughts, perhaps because she had no memory or image to cling to. On the other hand, we can imagine her mother’s influence in Jane’s famous quote that she’d rather be happy than dignified. It definitely seemed to have been her mother’s motto too!

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I’d also like to remind you that today, 31st of March, is the anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s premature death in 1855, at the ge of 38. She was pregnant when she and her unborn child died.

Her death certificate gives the cause of death as tuberculosis, but biographers, including Claire Harman, have suggested that she died from dehydration and malnutrition due to vomiting caused by severe morning sickness. Charlotte Brontë was buried in the family vault in the Church of St Michael and All Angels at Haworth in Yorkshire, UK.

Photo by Dave Green of St Michael and All Angel’s Church, Haworth (Wikipedia).

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P.S. If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you’re missing out on one of the greatest novels ever written, and it’s almost free on amazon kindle, including the audiobook!

If you have read Jane Eyre, perhaps you’ve wondered what happened after Jane and Rochester married, so have I, that’s why I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy, on special offer at the moment.

#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge ‘Marry me’ #JaneEyre

This is my response to Charli Mills’

March 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. Respond by March 6, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Marry Me, Jane!

‘Soon I shall be a bridegroom,’ said Mr. Rochester.
Jane looked down at her plain, governess dress and remembered Blanche Ingram’s extravagant clothes, noble features and glossy, raven hair.
‘I’ll leave at once. Miss Ingram will have plans for Adele.’
Jane refused to witness the man she loved marry a beautiful, yet unworthy gold-digger.
‘You would have me marry that frivolous woman?’ Rochester shook his head. ‘You think so little of me, Jane? I ask you to pass through life at my side as my best earthly companion.’
Rochester kissed her hand. ‘Jane, say Edward I will marry you.’

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It’s amazing how the mind works. I saw the picture of the raven and thought of Blanche Ingram’s hair! For those of you don’t remember, she was Lord Ingram’s daughter, who Mr. Rochester used to make Jane jealous, tease her and perhaps find out if cool Jane loved him…

I’ve tried to capture the moment Rochester asked Jane to marry him, which is no doubt one of the most dramatic and romantic scenes in the novel. Jane is convinced that he’s going to marry the awful Miss Ingram, but Mr. Rochester recognises gold when he sees it, even if it’s hidden under an ugly dress!

 

3 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. My Writing Process: Intertextuality

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are three days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day three is all about Intertextuality.

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Intertextuality is a literary device which creates interrelationship between two or more texts.

The term was coined by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s and has been widely used by poststructuralist and postmodern literary scholars.

The most frequent form is when one book refers to another book’s characters, plot, or scenes.

This reference can be simple or complex. The simple form may reference the title, or a famous character. The complex form may adapt a complete storyline or various characters from another book.

It can be an accidental, subconscious, casual, or deliberate endeavour. It can also be explicit or obvious or implicit, so the reader or scholar will need to delve into the text.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy employs simple and complex forms of intertextuality deliberately and explicitly.

The simple form of intertextuality is employed by most writers. Charlotte Bronte mentions Gulliver’s Travels, The Bible, among other texts in Jane Eyre, for example.

I mention Victorian writers, their works and their characters throughout my trilogy. Some examples are, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Emily Bronte, among others.

The complex form of intertextuality in The Eyre Hall Trilogy includes the use of many characters and back story from both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.

jane_eyre_an_autobiography_by_charlotte_bronte_2370006095781   Product Details

On the other hand the plots and most of the characters in the three novels which make up the trilogy are my own.

Intertextuality can be carried out using any or several of the following literary devices: allusion, quotation, parody, paraphrase, mimesis, expansion, transfer, among others.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy makes use of all of them, there are direct allusions to other works, including quotations. Some of the original characters are parodied. Events which took place in Jane Eyre are paraphrased as back story for the reader. I have also attempted to emulate the literary style, although I have adapted it for a modern audience. The original work is expanded and many events and characters have been transferred.

Many writers borrow ideas from the works they have read. Scholars call this literary sources, and all authors from Shakespeare to Joyce have done so in their works. It’s nothing new, and nothing to be ashamed of.

I wrote another post on sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings and writing back which explains my intentions in writing a sequel to Jane Eyre.

I also wrote a post on why Jane Eyre needs a sequel on author Shani Struther’s blog earlier this year.

There are plenty of examples of writers using this literary. James Joyce retold The Odyssey in Ulysses. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, is based on two characters from Hamlet. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is based on Bertha Mason’s story from Jane Eyre.

The purpose is to modify the readers’ understanding of the primary text by adding another perspective or layer of meaning to the original text leading to a reinterpretation of both texts.

My main aim in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was to invite the readers to rethink their opinions of Mr, Rochester, and expose Rochester as the tyrant he was and reinstate his victim, Bertha Mason.

Another aim was to honour the Victorian writers whom I consider my literary Masters, by referencing their works for contemporary readers.

Stevenson, Carroll, Dickens, Wilde, Kipling.

Few readers have never read Jane Eyre or seen a film or television series based on this novel. Most of those who have never done so directly, have heard the story of the poor governess who falls in love with the owner of the house and discovers that his mad wife is locked in his attic.

For those few who have absolutely no idea of who Jane Eyre was, there’s plenty of back story in book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, to help fill in the blanks.

I hope my readers will enjoy a fascinating journey into Victorian England when they read The Eyre Hall Trilogy 

 

20th June, 1837. The Birth of an Era: Victorian Britain

On Tuesday, 20th June 1837, at 6 o’clock in the morning, Princess Victoria was awoken by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, because the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chamberlain wished to see her. She greeted them in her dressing-gown and slippers, and they informed her that her Uncle, King William IV had died a few hours earlier, without any legitimate heirs, therefore, she was to become the Queen of England.

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Princess Victoria and Dash by George Hayter

She wrote in her diary:

‘Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to fulfill my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure that very few have more real good-will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.’

Queen Victoria was an avid diarist. You can read more extracts from her diaries, here.

The Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne arrived at nine o’clock with the Declaration which the young Queen was to read to the Council accompanied by her two Uncles, the Dukes of Cumberland and Sussex. Her coronation was held at Westminster Abbey a year later on 28 June 1838.

When Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, in London, on 24 May 1819, nobody would have imagined she would be Queen of England, and Empress of India. She was the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, who died shortly after her birth. She became heir to the throne because her three uncles, who were ahead of her in succession, George IV, Frederick Duke of York, and William IV, had no legitimate children.

Industrial and Technological Expansion

Queen Victoria is associated with Britain’s great age of industrial expansion, economic progress and, especially, Empire. At her death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set.

While Queen Victoria’s reign was a time of great material prosperity and economic growth, industrialization and urbanization brought new social difficulties. Urban poverty and the poor treatment of many in the working classes were major results of the newly capitalized and industrialized economy, and political pressures mounted throughout the nineteenth century to address such problems before they amounted to a great crisis.

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The voyage of the Beagle, 1831–1836

The Victorian Era was also a time of tremendous scientific progress and ideas. Darwin took his Voyage of the Beagle, and posited the Theory of Evolution. The Great Exhibition of 1851 took place in London, displaying technical and industrial advances of the age in medicine, science and technology.

Modern psychiatry began with men like Sigmund Feud toward the end of the era, and radical economic theory, developed by Karl Marx and his associates, began a second age of revolution in mid-century. The ideas of Marxism, socialism, feminism gained strength at this time.

Britain’s overseas trading surpassed that of Italy, France and Germany combined, and in 1870 it was nearly four times the size of the American overseas markets, and at home industry was flourishing.

Britain was called “the workshop of the world.” The hard-working and industrious Victorians represented the cutting edge of the Industrial Revolution: the railway, the postal service, telegraph, telephone, steam ships, spinning machines; steam engines, electricity, photography, antiseptic surgery, vaccines, stethoscope, among others.

Reading and Writing in the Victorian Era

In the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, reading had been a privilege available to the upper-class elite. Books were very expensive and most of the population were unable to afford them. Jane Austen’s England of the turn of the century had very little to do with the country in which Charles Dickens lived.

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Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise

In the 1830s and 1840s a new form of printed text emerged: a lengthy prose fiction serialised in one-penny or two-penny weekly parts. These were usually stories involving adventure or Gothic-like elements. Many had no planned, pre-written end; they just continued until the public were no longer interested in the story. Some penny weekly novels in the 1850s and 1860s were serialized over four or more years.

Reading became less of a privilege of the wealthy and more of a pastime of the common British citizen, as a result, magazines provided monthly installments of news articles, satiric essays, poetry and fiction, enabling many authors to easily share their work with the public, and helped launch the careers of prominent Victorian writers such as Dickens, Eliot, Tennyson, and the Brownings.

Have a look at this list of Victorian authors

I would compare these technological advances and this change in literary market to the present day digital technology, self-publishing industry and Social media.

The Victorians were avid readers of serialized and popular fiction, much as we are readers of ebooks and blogs!

 

Pictures used are in the Public Domain.