Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Jane Eyre”

Last Minute Housekeeping: 2014 Vocabulary

Before January totally rolls into February, I wanted to take up Vanessa-Jane Chapman’s nudging to “trot out” my 2014 vocabulary list. And I only thought about doing so because she did such a cool thing by coming up with a word of personal significance for each of the 365 days in 2014. Some of the words a person can only wonder about: Pirate?

My list seems rather mundane in comparison. I set out to record all the new-to-me or review, please words as I read last year. I usually read with my iPhone nearby and type them in my notes (which I can then email to my Google Docs account–handy). I started doing this with my AP reread novel Jane Eyre, which I began in February last year. Periodically I reread books I teach, just to refresh my memory of whatever it is I’m trying to impart to my students. I soon realized my vocabulary wasn’t up to snuff. Here’s a sampling of my Jane Eyre word collection:

appanage: benefit or rank belonging to someone
meretricious:attractive with no real value
diablerie: reckless in a charismatic way
seraglio: women’s apts in Muslim palace
puerile: childishly silly
avidity:keen interest or enthusiasm
inanition:exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment
elysium: Greek mythology-the place where Greek heroes went to be honored after their death
aspirant: ambitions to follow something, as in a political career
coadjutor: bishop which assists a bishop
ineradicable:unable to be destroyed or removed
pertinaciously:holding firmly to an opinion

Some of these I doubt I will be using anytime soon: “appange”? And others I hope to pop out with aplomb at some advantageous point in a conversation: “My inanition requires we go to lunch sooner than later.”  I seriously don’t think I will ever have an ocassion for “coadjutor”; however, I am prepared now should the need arise.

Other words I added from here and there encounters, including one from watching David Suchet in a Hercule Poirot episode and I ever so want to slide it into a conversation (look for *):

poltroon: utter coward
propound: put forward
adamantine: unable to be unbroken
apocryphal: doubtful statement
quash: reject as invalid especially in a legal procedure
blazon:form of poem which describes person through body part description. (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 is a parody of the form).
*avuncular: acting as an uncle figure
venal: susceptible to corruption or bribery
louche: disreputable or sordid
gallimaufry: jumble
kloofs: African valley
intercalary: calendar alignment-Feb 29
imbroglio: confused situation
vitiated: impair vitality
vertiginously: high or steep
antinomy: a paradox
soteriology : the doctrine of salvation
verdure: lush, green vegetation
encomiums: speech of praise
abstruse: difficult to understand
perfidious: deceitful and untrustworthy

Has collecting these words improved my overall diction? No, not really. Truthfully, I forgot most of these until I attempted to entrap them in the block quote (I give up, Mike, I can’t figure out the boxy thing–sigh). So why do I bother with finding them, typing them in, defining them–yada, yada. Why? I am a confessed word nerd. I just gotta know what that word is. I have a compunction about taking the time to look up the meaning so I continue reading (or watching) my story without being bothered by not knowing. I don’t think that’s because I’m a librarian gigging as an English teacher–I just like words.

Any other word nerds out there? Any words off the list that totally pop out at you for being extra cool? How about “kloofs”? Tish Farrell–you run into any “kloofs” in your African adventures?

Light and Eyrey

image:: Jane Eyre Silhouette Black and White Book Cover by Pendantmonium,

I am preparing myself early this year for when I announce we will be studying Jane Eyre.

“Do we have to?”

“Is that our only choice?”

“Isn’t that a chic lit selection?”

And that’s the question I shall endeavor to answer. Because the first two questions both can be answered with “no.” But we won’t go there for now.

So, is Charlotte Bronte’s famous classic novel of being true to oneself, of overcoming adversity, of embracing family over riches really a chic lit because it centers on a romance, intrigue, and a woman who is victimized more than once.

First off let’s look at a couple of definitions:


What is Chick Lit?

Chick lit is smart, fun fiction for and/or about women of all ages. Many of these books are written from a first-person viewpoint, making them a bit more personal and realistic. The plots can range from being very light and fast-paced to being extraordinarily deep, thought-provoking and/or moving.

Another perspective–from

chick lit

/lɪt/ Show Spelled [lit] Show IPA


literature that appeals especially to women, usually having a romantic or sentimental theme.

At this point Jane Eyre could be considered smart, fun? probably not so much. First-person viewpoint–yes. Personal and realistic–maybe. The plot is not very light and could be considered deep, thought-provoking and moving. It does appeal to women and does contain a romantic theme. Perhaps it is chic lit. Then again, let’s explore “classic.”

Mark Twain’s definition is universally accepted: “A book which people praise and don’t read.” However, Jane Eyre is read evidenced by it still being in print, let alone being studied in AP courses. Plus, look at all the film versions of JE.

I put the question to the guy students in class and most said the novel held their interest. The language, the setting, the intrigue, the cousin plot, the bitter aunt, and of course that underplot of a possible vampire living upstairs–wait, that’s a different novel (or is it?)

The verdict? How about JE is a classy literary novel focusing on a woman who overcomes her unjust circumstances. Oh, yes, let’s not forget Mr. Rochester.

Any thoughts?

Did you dread reading Jane Eyre in high school and roll your eyes or embrace the story of a strong young woman who finds happiness after much travail? (yes, I am slanting the vote).


Eyre of Distinction

Soon we start our AP novel unit, Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte’s novel is one of my favorites, which means I will infuse as much of my appreciation for it as I do for my other favorite classics like Hamlet.  While many wax profoundly about Jane Austen, I think Miss Bronte gets overlooked. Jane Eyre has the distinction of being one of those novels that set things of literature memes, tropes, and motifs in motion by becoming a template for other stories. Consider:

  • she is plain in looks, but beautiful in spirit
  • her intelligence is valued by others, at a time when women were not widely educated
  • she values family over fortune
  • she easily speaks her mind
  • she is independent and finds a way to survive
  • outwardly she is calm, yet ripples with passion underneath her facade of restraint
  • she is perservering, sourceful, and a woman of strong morals
  • she stands up for herself–no doormat dame here

My opinion: Jane rocks. Over the years there have been several film adaptations of the novel.  I binged on JE films over the weekend and came up with my ratings:

1971: Starring George C. Scott and Susannah York
Verdict: skip.

George, too familiar with his Patton role, brought it to his interpretation of Rochester.  He railed and ranted in a very American accent and I gave up after he meets with Jane after their encounter on the road. Besides York’s Jane being too old and much too pretty I couldn’t sit through the poor film quality. The video transfer was so muddied I felt as if I were watching the movie through an unwashed glass.

image: eleganceof fashion. blogspot

1983: Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke
Verdict: one of the most faithful and watchable versions

Being a BBC production, I had initial trust it would be a quality adaptation, after all these are the folk who brought us Colin Firth as Mister Darcy. The sets, the important scenes, those inscrutable nuances of the original story are all contained in this mini-series. Timothy Dalton definitely understands the Byronic hero that Rochester embodies and has even said in interviews Rochester is one of his best roles. Clarke, while a bit older than the required 18 year old fresh from her Lowood imprisonment, captures the Quakerish passivity and ethereal nature of Jane Eyre.  The scenes between Dalton and Clarke are melt-in-the-mouth truffle satisfying.  Their version is what comes to mind most often when I return for a refresher novel read. I really did believe a heartstring developed between them. The agony of Dalton’s Rochester when he realized his Jane was leaving him forever kept the tissue box occupied.

1996: William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg director: Franco Zefferilli
Verdict: passable, but strayed terribly from the novel

William Hurt seemed on the verge of understanding Rochester, but kept the bitterness too diminished, too washed out. Charlotte G as Jane got her part right. The plain, passionate young actress  imbued the paradoxical spirit of Jane Eyre. Sadly, there existed no believable passion, that needed kindred heart-string spark, between Gainsbourg’s Jane and Hurt’s Rochester. This spark is the very core of the novel. Without that essential core the movie floundered about like a fish hoping to get back into the water to have a proper swim. The director who brought us Romeo and JulietTaming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and other great stories of passion missed the mark with this adaptation by rushing the story and taking way too many liberties with the plot.

2006: Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson
Verdict: enjoyable, even if a bit too contemporary in approach


Admittedly, I had started watching this version years ago when it first came out, but found myself so disenchanted with the cutaway flashbacks, I couldn’t get past the Lowood scenes and it wasn’t until recently I returned to another viewing.  I did like the lead actors portrayals, and yes, there was a definite spark between them. I thought Toby Stephens got off easy with his fire wounds, unlike Hurt and Dalton. His rugged looks only appeared rather marred, instead of being ruined. The rolling around, ankle rubbing bit at the end seemed a bit too lenient for true Bronte style. Then again, there are leniences throughout this adaptation I willingly overlooked since the production quality proved so high.

2011: MiaWaikowska and Michael Fassbender Director: Cary Fukunaga
Verdict: Admirable

The first scene makes a diehard JE fan sit bolt upright and ask, “What? Wait–did the movie skip! because the opening scene is starting right off with Jane making her mad dash from Thornfield, which usually means the film is winding up to the grand finale.  Instead Fukunaga gets a bit artsy and dips in and out of Jane’s childhood days in flashbacks, with a quick glance at times at her more recent history.  Artfully done, but a bit disconcerting for those who prefer the linear progression.  Fassbender and Waikowska do provide a sumptuous Rochester and Jane.  Looks, mannerisms, nuances, smoldering passions–it’s all there.  That’s why it the ending is so absolutely frustrating.  I could not understand the need to transform Rochester into a Tom Hanks Castaway lookalike.  Maybe trading out the maimed hand for a beard was a contract compromise. Also, there should have been another 20 minutes of wrap up, yet we are whisked away much too soon.  It’s like being served the most savory dessert and having it taken away after a couple a bites–“Yo, I wasn’t finished.” Apparently Fukunaga thought the audience needed no more indulging and wanted us to move away from the table.

Overall: If a dedicated JE fan go to one of the series adaptations, such as the 1983 or the 2006.  It appears that only when given the proper amount of time (3-4 hours) can Jane’s story be told sufficiently. However, if thinking “book or movie first?” and movie wins out–get the 2011 version.

Further notation: I thought about finding the Ciarin Hinds version, especially after watching him in Austen’s Persuasion with Amanda Root.  Our library no longer has it and after reading the widely mixed reviews of loving it and hating it, I thought I will stick with my picks of 1983, 2011, and 2006 for classroom clips.

Any readers have their own picks of fave JE adaptations?

Leading Ladies of Fiction Faves

English: "How dare I, Mrs Reed? How dare ...

English: “How dare I, Mrs Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve noticed the books that hit my fave list share a commonality: spunky female protagonists

Lizzie Bennet: right smart with her retorts, and loves her trots about the countryside

Jane Eyre: determined and no one is going to door mat her anytime soon

Scout Finch: gotta love a girl who reaches for her overalls in times of stress

Katniss Everdeen: archer supreme, survivor, yet has compassion

Mattie (True Grit): can talk her way into and out of most anything; didn’t let an encounter with a rattler get her down

Hattie (Hattie Big Sky): took on Montana homesteading by herself!

Little Sister (Laddie): I’m pretty sure she and Scout are kindred spirits

Laura Ingalls Wilder: “stout as a Welsh pony”–that’s high praise

Antonia (My Antonia): sassy survivalist of the prairie

These ladies come from different time periods, different backgrounds, and different families, yet they all share the qualities of pluck.  Pluck never goes out of style, at least not in novels.

Got any favorites from the list?  Maybe you can share your own

Jane Eyrror

Disclaimer: my commentary (not to be confused with a diatribe) is by in no means a diss upon those authors who have achieved success in their ability to appease the hunger of a ready populace for further forays of their favorite literary characters. I applaud publication success, even though I may not applaud the content.

The Janes of my reading life have left me wanting.  Wanting more that is.  Having read through Jane Austen and desiring more of Jane Eyre, I have continued to found solace in the many continuations that are currently available.

As we all know, there truly is no satisfying replacement for the original.  However, when you crave a Godiva and only Hershey, sometimes you are willing to settle for less when the best is no longer available.  In my Search for More Jane (not a book title, but wouldn’t it be a fun one?) I have scoured my GoodReads lists to find plausible reads.  I attempted several titles and grew weary in my searches for a true Elizabeth and company.  Only JA knew Elizabeth best. Besieged by the plethora of Pride and Prejudice knock-offs, I have turned to other novels of classic inspiration.  Jane Eyre is one such hopeful.

I dutifully read Wide Saragossa Sea since it ranked a place on the AP Suggested Reading List. Touted as the prequel to Jane Eyre and hailed as a classic, I braved through the novel ever hopeful it would answer those nagging questions of how Edward Rochester became smitten and taken in by Bertha.  The novel turned out to be more of a stand alone than a companion read.

I then chanced upon Death of a Schoolgirl  by Joanna Campbell Slan at my local library on the new releases shelf.  Seeing it featured Jane Eyre in her married state of Mrs. Rochester I quickly plunked it into by book bag.  Overall, I enjoyed this as a weekend read with its premise that Jane’s curiosity and tenacity makes her a rival to Miss Marple in sleuthing skills. A fun read, granted, it offered only a shadow in terms of the depth of Jane.



I then remembered reading a book review about a contemporary version of Jane Eyre.  Setting the intrepid ET upon the search, she found Jane by April Linder. I too checked it out.  Here is the catalog summary:

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

Book Jacket for: Jane


I read it anyway.

No, Jane had not been what I had originally been looking for, and fortunately I found the lost review buried under my get-to-it-someday stack.  The Flight of Gemma Hardy, proved a much better replacement crave read and definitely proved the glowing review it received.


Set in Iceland and Scotland in the fifties and sixties, Gemma Hardy’s life parallels that of Jane Eyre’s in travail and hardships.  Gemma is a young woman who becomes an au pair for the precocious niece of a Mr.Sinclair, who infrequently visits his Scottish home.  Gemma’s journey and subsequent flight adequately pays tribute to that of Jane Eyre’s, yet manages to be a distinctive and well-written plot twist of its own merit.  I reluctantly finished Livesey tribute novel, quite satisfied with having found a glimpse of Jane through Gemma.  I am looking forward to discovering her other works.

Sometimes the best way to find a continuation of a familiar voice is to discover a new acquaintance.

Conclusion: There is real no “eyrror” in finding replacement reads for Jane; it’s only a matter of discernment.


Fan (of) Fiction

Caterpillar using a hookah. An illustration fr...

Caterpillar using a hookah. An illustration from Alice in Wonderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With six days left Vera has finally started her NaNo novel.  Her inspiration is a hybrid of Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland with a bit of Lost in Austen thrown in. It’s fan fiction at it’s *finest*.  Okay, cut the kid a break–she’s only fifteen and has never written anything of length beyond the required English essay.

Actually, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to fan fiction, even though I’ve come across some which is entertaining and well-written, I can’t help but think, “Couldn’t you come up with something original?”  Then again there is something to be said for being inspired by good writing.

For example, Wide Sargasso Sea is on the AP suggested reading list and can be considered the prequel to Jane Eyre.  What?  Fan Fiction considered classic literature?  Told you I was a literary snob.

An ardent admirer of Ophelia of Hamlet and Alice of Wonderland fame, and totally grooving on the Lost in Austen premise of switching places with Elizabeth Bennett, I couldn’t help but have Vera weave all of them together.


NaNo–the most grueling, yet satisfying form of writing under pressure.  Sissies need not apply.



Just Another Gothic Girl

English: Gothic girl.

English: Gothic girl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I have admittedly strayed from my AP book list and I am in the midst of coasting in my reading tastes: the gothic romance novel. oh yeah.

I’m not talking your acceptable-found-on-the-list novel like Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. Nope, I’m talking about the forgotten books by a forgotten author that needs rediscovering.  Maybe I will start a resurgence of Dorothy Eden readers. You  never know.

Intrigued by what constitutes a gothic romance novel I Googled to find a most excellent site called Virtual Salt, which is written by Robert Harris, former professor and general busy guy.  He’s got an exciting menu of topic choices on his website and it is a recommended stop by.  I chose “Element of the Gothic Novel” and will definitely be borrowing from and referring to his article once I get to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in AP Lit.

Currently I’m cheat reading and have discovered amidst the buried “E”s when I was last shelf shopping,  Dorothy Eden, who had once upon a time a long writing career spanning from the 1940s into the 1980, being known primarily for writing these smashing gothic romances with heroines exhibiting contemporary tendencies.  I’m deep into my second one and these are exactly what I need,  having come off of a grading campaign of freshmen poetry notebooks.

Here is Gothic Romance Elements 101 in a Nutshell.  For in-depth article investigation I encourage you to investigate Robert Harris’s site.

A Gothic Romance needs to have the following:
1.  a castle
2. inexplicable events
3. suspense
4. a damsel in distress
5. overwrought emotions
6. metonymy of gloom and horror *

*refresher for metonymy: it’s a type of metaphor.  For instance, in movies to get some immediate gloom and horror tone going the script will throw in some approaching footsteps and of course you gotta have the sudden torrential downpoour complete with thunder and lightning.

Here’s what Dorothy Eden fare I’ve dined upon so far–the title alone, let alone the cover art, indicate a GR is within the grasp.

The Shadow WifeI couldn’t improve on Amazon:

There was something about the tall, dynamic Dane that disturbed Luise Amberley. But he was so attentive, so charming, that she silenced the small warning voice within her and yielded to his passionate persuasions. The wedding ceremony was hasty, almost furtive, but Luise was too wildly infatuated to care. Even his insistence that their marriage be kept a secret did not seem unreasonable. Otto Winther was, after all, a Count…a man whose ancestors were royalty in Denmark. Not until they left the small seaside resort where they had met and arrived at Maaneborg Castle did Luise become aware that something was wrong. It was not merely the coolmess of the welcome. There was an atmosphere of desperation and danger. They were hiding something. And Luise was determined to find out their secret, no matter what the risk. She did not want to remain a SHADOW WIFE.
It’s actually much better than the description. Considering the publishing date was 1967 I found myself surprised that the following being mentioned: a)computers b)open love affairs within a marriage c)abortion.  Plus Luise is no fainting Melba.  She does not easily whimper off or get locked up in a dungeon.  She reminds me a lot of Jane Eyre, one of my all time fave heroines.
I’m in the middle of Winterwood and once again I will let Amazon do the honors.
 WinterwoodSee the castle?  See the damsel in distress?  Gloom and suspense?  And you know that inexplicable event is about to happen.
Enough of the blogging.  I must return to my saga of the socialite forced by circumstance to become governess to the wealthy family consisting of handsome husband, aloof wife with a myriad of light illnesses, and two spoiled children.  I did mention the dying, extremely rich aunt, did I not?

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