Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Emma Brown by Clare Boylan

Emma Brown
Emma Brown: A novel from the unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte is my second selection for the All About the Brontes challenge. This novel is actually based on two unfinished manuscripts by Charlotte Bronte, Emma Brown and The Story of Willie Ellin.  The first two chapters were written by Charlotte and are the first 20 manuscript pages of Emma Brown. Clare Boylan finishes the novel and adds Charlotte's character, Willie Ellin.  The result is successful and enjoyable, albeit it doesn't quite seem like the voice of Charlotte Bronte.     

The story begins when a young girl, Matilda Fitzgibbons, is dropped off at a boarding school by her uncle.  The three Wilcox sisters who run the school are thrilled as she is dressed in very expensive clothes, and they are in need of some extra income to keep their fledging girls school in operation.  After attempting to write to the uncle for payment, the sisters discover that he has given them a false address.  Matilda is abandoned at the school where the Wilcoxes strip her of her clothes and treat her cruelly.  

Two people of the town become interested in Matilda's plight, a widow named Mrs. Chalfont and a bachelor named Willie Ellin.   Mrs. Chalfont opens her home to Matilda while Mr. Ellin seeks to uncover the mystery of her abandonment.  Matilda can not provide the key to the mystery as she has lost her memory.  She does eventually remember that Emma is her real name. Emma (no longer Matilda) runs away to London in pursuit of her history, leaving the childless widow grieving her absence.  Mr. Ellin continues the search for Emma's uncle.  The second half of the story takes place primarily in the slums of London revealing the poverty, prostitution, and crime of the time.  (These sections reminded me more of Dickens than C. Bronte.) There are several coincidences that connect all of the main characters to Emma in the end.
Much like Jane Eyre, Emma has an independent spirit and a strong amount of common sense. She struggles to make it in the grim streets of London and uses her cleverness to avoid the workhouses.  Forgiveness and redemption are also themes of Emma Brown as several of the characters struggle to overcome their unfortunate pasts. While Jane is the only narrator in Jane Eyre, there are several different narrations in Emma Brown.  A few times these switches in POV were confusing.  However, I loved seeing the story from the perspectives of the various characters and how their pasts influenced the way they treated Emma.  

I highly recommend this book.  I didn't feel as if I was reading a Charlotte Bronte novel and with the exception of the first couple of chapters, I wasn't.  It was very courageous of Clare Boylan to finish the novel of such a beloved author.  Many reviews of this book have a "How dare you?" attitude toward Boylan.  I say, "How daring of you! Bravo!"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Random Ramblings About Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is my first novel for the All About the Brontes Challenge hosted by Laura's Book Reviews. It is one of my top three favorite books, so I'm a bit overwhelmed with how to even begin writing about it.  I apologize for the following random thoughts.

SPOILER ALERTS:  (If you've never read Jane Eyre and want to...BEWARE!)

Short Synopsis:
The story opens with the orphaned ten year old Jane Eyre who is living with her cold and unloving Aunt Reed and her three cousins who exclude and torment her.  She is sent to Lowood, a charity school for girls.  It is a cold place where the girls are starved.   Jane finds a true friend in Helen Burns who tragically dies in her arms.  After her training is complete, Jane teaches at the school for a few years before advertising for a governess position.  She becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, a lonely and mysterious place.  It is here where Jane finds true love.  Her happiness is short-lived as she suffers a great shock, which causes her to suddenly flee the manor in the middle of the night.  Weary and hungry, Jane is reduced to begging.  She finds help in the form of St. John Rivers and his two sisters who tend to her physical and emotional needs. After a year of making her way alone in the world, Jane returns to Thornfield Hall and to her true love, Mr. Rochester.  

Jane and Me:
My father suggested I should write an entry based on how my life relates to Jane Eyre's.  While I may be tempted to run off to the Moors in a state of emotional distress brought on by the antics of the my little sons, I never have and likely will not as we don't have those here. What I can relate to is Jane's love of learning and reading.  At the beginning, she escapes her troubles by reading a book.  Reading is a great escape for me as well.  I can also relate to her chosen profession as I am a teacher as well.  

Jane Eyre: The Feminist
Jane Eyre expresses a desire to take care of herself early on in the book when she advertises to be a governess.   When offered marriage, she insists on maintaining her work and receiving her salary.  She doesn't like the thought of being dependent on Mr. Rochester after they are married.  Jane express her independence when facing the moral dilemma of staying with Mr. Rochester as his mistress or leaving him.  She decides to leave and become independent of him. 

I love when she says to herself, "No; you shall tear yourself away; none shall help you: you shall yourself pluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand: your heart should be the victim; and you the priest, to transfix it" (Jane Eyre, chapter 27).  This statement is incredibly eerie considering what actually happens to Rochester during the night of the fire.

Another Favorite Quote:
from Chapter 23 

"Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am souless and heartless?  You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!"  

The entire paragraph this quote comes from is pretty amazing.  When watching Jane Eyre films, I'm always anticipating this particular line.

Speaking of Jane Eyre Films
I hadn't read Jane Eyre in several years and couldn't wait for the part where Mr. Rivers finds her exhausted on the Moors and carries her away to his home. This actually never happens. I guess I was recalling a scene from a film not the actual book.  I was kind of disappointed.

Jane Eyre and Rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne Du Murier is another favorite of mine.  I had no idea it was based on Jane Eyre until Laura listed it as one of the challenge books. Well, of course while reading Jane Eyre I noticed many similarities.  Most obvious of which are secrets about psychotic first wives, the romance of a young woman and older man of varying social stature, and the destruction of the mansions by fire.  

I can't wait to read my next selection for this challenge.  It is Emma Brown: A Novel from the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Bronte by Clare Boylan.