“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit.

Goodreads


This one was first published in 1847, so I’m not going to worry about spoilers with my review. And if you haven’t guessed it, this was my pick for this year’s #SummerClassic.

The story takes place in roughly five places. The first is the mansion of Jane’s aunt, where the orphaned Jane lives with her aunt, three spoiled cousins, and various servants. The family of the house treats Jane like a second-class citizen, and she is utterly miserable. Around the age of ten, she is sent away to a boarding school. At first, this stage of her life looks like it will be just as miserable as the first. But, Jane proves herself and actually ends up thriving at the school. She even goes on to teach there for 2 years after she finishes her schooling. But eventually, she wants to see more of the world, and interact with other people.

This brings her to Thornfield, where she is hired as a governess to a young French girl who is the ward of the master of this old mansion. She befriends the girl, and several servants there, but the master of the house is initially absent. She eventually does meet Mr. Rochester in an eventful scene, where he injures himself making his way home.

Jane and Mr. Rochester strike up an odd relationship (in my mind). They enjoy each other’s conversations, in part because they feel they can be honest with each other – including being a little antagonistic at times. In fact, Rochester pretends to be engaged to someone else for almost a month just to see if Jane will be jealous.

Jane is in love with him, but doesn’t really consider herself lovable. So it’s quite a shock to her when he asks her to marry him. She does say yes, though.

Here’s the thing: we’re only 55% through the book at this point. So is the back half her married life? Nope.

All along, something’s been weird at Thornfield. Jane assumed it was one crazy servant named Grace, and couldn’t understand why Rochester was protecting her (not firing her, or wanting to talk about it). Then, as Jane and Rochester are about to be married, we learn that… he is already married! And the first wife is both crazy and locked upstairs at Thornfield. Grace, in fact, is actually her caretaker.

So the next morning, before anyone else is awake, Jane runs away. She spends a few days on the road, but eventually finds shelter with some siblings who are just a bit older than her – two sisters and one brother – and their sole servant. The brother is a local minister, and has recently set up a girls’ school, so Jane ends up working there. She eventually comes to learn, through the passing of a distant uncle, that these three are her cousins. They also inherit money from the uncle, which changes her circumstances.

In the year or so she lives with her cousins, she does write to Thornfield to check on Rochester, but no one answers. Her male cousin is pressuring her to go to India as a missionary with him, and she is conflicted about it. She decides she needs to know for sure what happened to Mr. Rochester before she can decide on leaving the country. So she heads back to find that the mansion had burned down not long after she left. The crazy wife set the fire, and did not survive the incident. Most of the inhabitants have gone on to different places, while Mr. Rochester – now blind – lives with just two servants in a nearby cottage.

Jane finds him there, and they finally marry. She lives the rest of her days with him, but continues to see her cousins semi-regularly. The male one does travel to India, so she only hears from him by mail. We learn that Jane is telling this story ten years into her married life, so she is only about 30 years old at the time, but that is where this story ends.

This was my first foray into any of the works of the Bronte sisters! Having finally read it, my question for you, readers, is… is there a particular movie version you love that I should check out? Hit me with the recommendations!


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“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Anne Shirley, an eleven-year-old orphan, has arrived in this verdant corner of Prince Edward Island only to discover that the Cuthberts—elderly Matthew and his stern sister, Marilla—want to adopt a boy, not a feisty redheaded girl. But before they can send her back, Anne—who simply must have more scope for her imagination and a real home—wins them over completely. A much-loved classic that explores all the vulnerability, expectations, and dreams of a child growing up, Anne of Green Gables is also a wonderful portrait of a time, a place, a family… and, most of all, love.

Goodreads


I read this one in July as my #SummerClassic pick. It was originally published in 1908, and, according to Wikipedia, has been translated into 36 languages. A quick google search shows that various sites list it as being appropriate for children in the 8-12 range, which puts it squarely in the “middle grade” category. Nevertheless, this was my first time reading it!

One of the first things I found interesting in this book was the setting – Prince Edward Island. The only place I’ve visiting in Canada so far is Toronto, but I love cold weather, and have always felt like this region – on the Atlantic coast, just north of Maine – would be a lovely place to visit.

The story itself begins not from Anne’s perspective, but from that of a nosy neighbor watching Matthew Cuthbert leave town. We then learn that he and his sister, Marilla, are looking to adopt a boy of around 12 years old, to help with their farm. Neither of the Cuthberts married or had children of their own. Of course, we already know that their plan is going to get thrown off track when Matthew finds a girl waiting for him instead.

Anne is very imaginitive. This quality adds some pep into the Cuthbert’s formerly quiet life, but it also gets Anne into trouble fairly regularly. She loves trees and flowers, and delights in all things that bloom around Green Gables and the neighboring land. She is also overly concerned with the fact that her hair is red – a bad omen, in her mind.

The earlier chapters of the book go into many details of her adventures, and each one is likely to discuss only one incident at a time. Anne goes to both regular school and Sunday school – a first, in her life – and makes many friends and frenemies. We really get a feel for everyday life at the Cuthbert’s, and in the town in general.

The later chapters start to hurry things up a bit, as Anne goes off to college for a year and hopes to be a teacher. Some of them cover a whole season at a time. She initially wins a scholarship to go to an even better school, but tragedy strikes as Matthew passes away unexpectedly while she is home for the summer. Marilla’s eyesight is also failing, and Anne learns that she intends to sell the farm. Having none of that, Anne foregoes another year of school, and gets hired on to teach in town starting that fall. She cajoles Marilla into letting her support her in this way, instead of selling Green Gables.

This was a fun read, and recaptures some of the beauty of being a child with nothing to entertain you but your own imagination – and maybe some willing friends.


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An Anniversary, and Upcoming Reading Goals

By: Angie Haddock


Just a short celebratory post here – it’s my one year anniversary of contributing to this blog! So far, I’ve covered a lot of biographies, Advanced Reader Copies, and sci-fi.

I have one more #DiverseSFF review to post next month, and it’s a classic by a queen of the genre: Octavia Butler. And, while I’ve enjoyed my last two “missions,” I want to step back from assigning myself a specific genre for the next six months.

My new goal is going to be to tackle things that are on my TBR list, or books already in my (ever-expanding) inventory. My goal is to tackle at least two a month, although I probably won’t review every read.

I’m also going to read another #SummerClassic this year – or possibly even two, as the one I’m considering is rather short.

How are you tackling your TBR these days? Have you read any classics this year, or are you planning to? Stay tuned to this space, or follow us on Instagram to keep tabs on what we’re reading!


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“Emma” by Jane Austen – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


“Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.”

Goodreads


“Emma” is a classic, first published in 1815. Many of you have probably read it, maybe in a lit class at some point, but this was my first time tackling Jane Austen. A quick refresher, for those who read it too long ago to remember the details:

From a 1909 version of Emma

The story is broken into three parts. In Volume I we meet our main characters, including Emma Woodhouse, aged 21, who lives with her father near the town of Highbury. Their closest neighbors include the Westons and Mr. Knightley. Her older sister, who now lives elsewhere, is married to Mr. Knightley’s brother, referred to as Mr. John Knightley. The main story in this volume is that Emma tries to fix up a new friend, one Harriet Smith, with the new hot bachelor in town, Mr. Elton. Harriet is an orphan, attending a boarding school nearby, and comes off as somewhat simple. She is also a few years younger than Emma. Emma is convinced that her own good standing and knowledge of society rules will rub off on Harriet, and that she should “aim high” in finding a suitor – which is why she thinks Mr. Elton is perfect. Also of note is that Emma has sworn off marriage herself, presumably out of duty to tend to her father. Emma thinks her matchmaking plan is working, as Mr. Elton hangs around her and Harriet more and more, but is surprised to learn that he was actually interested in her, not Harriet.

In Volume II we meet a few new characters and get expanded views on other townspeople who were periphery to the story earlier. One of the key figures in this section is Jane Fairfax, who is close to Emma in age. Although she has family in town, she was raised with another, wealthier family elsewhere. Emma dislikes Jane, mostly because everyone else likes her so much and talks about her all the time. It’s a jealousy thing, from what I can tell. Another important figure is Frank Churchill, who was also raised elsewhere, despite being the son of Mr. Weston. Emma was predisposed to dislike him, because of his prolonged absence from his father, but finds that she actually likes him very much. And, she thinks he likes her. Mr. Elton, having been jilted by Emma, comes home from a vacation with a new wife, and Emma cannot stand her. Mrs. Elton talks incessantly and acts haughty, like she is too good for most people in the town.

Various society shindigs happen near the end of Volume II and into Volume III that celebrate these characters – the marriage of the Eltons, and the visits from Miss Fairfax and Mr. Churchill are both reasons for people to get together en masse, and frequently. One key tidbit is that, while at a dance, Mr. Knightley offers to dance with Harriet Smith. Mr. Elton was the only other male not dancing, and he refused to dance with her because of their past – so, Mr. Knightly wanted to save her from being embarrassed. Later, on her way home, Harriet apparently gets jumped by some would-be muggers, who are run off by Frank Churchill.

A colorized portrait of Jane Austen

In talking afterwards about the night’s events, Harriet confesses that she has a new crush. Emma assumes she means Mr. Churchill, as he had saved her from the mugging. As Emma has refused to ever marry, she is supposedly ok with this turn.

The first big twist in Volume III comes when we learn that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill were secretly engaged all along, even before their arrival in Highbury. Most people are convinced that Emma will be crushed, as it was obvious that she and Frank were close. She is worried, of course, that Harriet will be crushed – in her mind, she had already moved on from Frank so that Harriet could have him.

The next twist comes when Harriet confesses that her new infatuation was actually Mr. Knightley. Suddenly, and seemingly without any previous thought on the matter, Emma is not ok with Harriet aiming quite that high, and decides/realizes that she wants Mr. Knightley for herself. Just as surprising is the fact that Mr. Knightley wants to marry Emma, too!


The first thing I want to address is that, when I started reading this book, I heard a lot of people say they weren’t a fan of Emma – as in, the character. They thought she was spoiled, and meddled too much in everyone else’s business. I definitely see that, but also think – she’s 21. I see her as thinking she knows everything, and figuring out that she does not. That could be said of a lot of 21 year olds.

(Back when I reviewed The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I gave Coriolanus Snow some similar leeway, for being young and naive. Am I just getting soft as I get older, or is the current state of the world forcing me to be more forgiving? Things to ponder.)

So yea, I had a head’s up that Emma is a bit of a meddler, and I didn’t let it bug me. The book on the whole is decent, and would especially entertain people who like hearing about society balls and the like. It’s not exactly action-packed, but I didn’t expect it to be. Some of the foibles and mix-ups I could see coming from a mile away, and other seemed to just pop out of nowhere.

I knew – again, because the book is part of the pop culture lexicon and referred to in other literature – that Emma would end up with Knightley. And yet, that is the part that seems to just appear, rather than develop over time. Her realization that she wants to marry him comes up about eighty percent of the way through the story. He’d certainly been around the whole time, and had shown himself to be a stand-up kind of guy, but they’d mostly disagreed on all sorts of things throughout the bulk of the book. It was almost like he was trying to correct her on certain things along the way as a method of molding her. She, being fiercely independent, felt free to disagree with him often. And yet, I guess that dynamic “worked” for them? Opposites attract, I guess!

A friend of mine* had said that Emma was her favorite Jane Austen book, and specifically that Mr. Knightley was her favorite love interest of Austen’s writings. Her reasoning:

“I think what I like about him is that he’s very tolerant, tends to do charitable things, doesn’t mind chatting with all sorts, is usually perceptive, and doesn’t mind checking Emma though no one else will. I like his tolerance.”

To which, I replied:

“I could get on board with that.”

Overall, the book was pretty good. And I don’t want to come off like I am against Emma and Mr. Knightley getting together – but I do wish that aspect of the story didn’t seem so hurried.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen book? Or did you read a classic book this summer? Let us know in the comments!


Check out my friend’s cool stuff at: https://cognizantcreative.com/


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Summer Classic: Emma

By Angie Haddock

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend (if you live in the US), with lots of time to read!

Last year, I came across a page on Facebook that was promoting their summer read-along of War & Peace. I had never read it, and it was intimidating – most hardcover versions come in at around 1500 pages, and there are multiple translations! But, for whatever reason, I thought it would be a good challenge. It’s something I hadn’t tackled before, and it’s a classic, right?

The read-along was supposed to take 3 months. Of course, I got other library holds in, and other distractions came along. I finished the book, but it took me 7 months.

I have no bad feelings about it taking me that long, because I still finished War & Peace, and I feel like that is no small feat!

I liked the idea of tackling a classic regularly, so I’ve decided to make it a summer tradition. This year, I’m going to read Emma, by Jane Austen. I’m not giving myself a time limit to finish, as I’m still reading other books concurrently with this one. I started last week, though, and am a handful of chapters in (out of 55).

I know there are several movie versions of this story, including a new one that came out this year, so I may do a comparison review with that. We’ll just see how it goes!

Are there any classics you’ve been meaning to read, but never made time for? Could this be the perfect time to dust one off? Let me know if you’ll be finding a #summerclassic of your own!