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Bearing an Hourglass
Piers Anthony
Peter the Great: His Life and World
Robert K. Massie
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Elizabeth C. Bunce
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
Neil Gaiman
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Victor Hugo, Isabel Florence Hapgood
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Erik Larson
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Peter A. Levine
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Tess Gerritsen
A Breath of Eyre - Eve Marie Mont I'm pretty sure this author lives within a mile or two of me, so I really wanted to like her just for camaraderie sake. I mean, when there's the possibility that I could meet someone at the grocery store
I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Breath of Eyre is based on the story of a modern Jane Eyre like girl who uses lesson learned by living parts of the story to solve problems in her own life. These problems are pretty big. They include a mother that committed suicide when she was young, a distant father and his controlling new wife, and a boarding school where Emma is shut out from having a real life by economic differences.
The first third of the book helped me out with my original determination to love it. Emma as a heroine was interesting and her difficult life was realistic enough that I could relate. I loved how complex the teenage characters were. Her friends Michelle and Owen were very well plotted. There's something about difficult to love characters in literature that make me love them more.
Then it hits the serious Jane Eyre parts and it just goes off the rails. Mont starts pulling directly from the Charlotte Bronte's novel, keeping the dialogue and events while seriously condensing it. Frankly, it's boring without the crazy Bronte undertones to give it flavor. The wacky life events (being struck by lightening, getting trapped in a burning barn) that necessitate these mental adventures are a little irritating. It only really worked for me the first time, after that it just felt like pushing. From what she learns Emma turns from helpless to miss fix it and manages to solve all of her problems (deadbeat dad wacked out over mother's suicide, friends anger management issues, etc) by applying her newly won decisiveness, almost all of which comes at the expense of Jane the character. Near the end when Emma's made all her Jane based decisions a new plot structure starts off to pull Emma back into the Jane mold. After her repudiation of Jane and Jane's choices it's a little strange to have Monte recreate the story for Emma in a modern setting so Emma gets own happily ever after.
As you can probably tell there something in this book that truly, deeply, pissed me off. Now at the end (so most human beings can skip it) I'm going to rant.
Rant: "In the draft I gave to you, I say that Jane is a strong role model for women because she forgives Rochester for his failings, but at the same time, refuses to become his lover until he's redeemed himself. But now I disagree. I don't think she should have forgave him at all. How could she go back to Rochester after discovering what he'd done? If she'd been a true feminist, she would have looked out for Bertha."
This quote is taken at the end of a whole long sequence where Rochester is judged about how horrible he is to keep his crazy wife in the attic. In Breath of Eyre Emma/Jane discovers Bertha and springs her from her attic prison .
Here's my beef. How on earth is Jane supposed to "look out" for Bertha? If you go strait from Jane Eyre Bertha is suffering a hereditary mental illness that worsens with age. Think a severe case of schizophrenia. She has vandalized Jane's stuff, set Rochester's bed on fire while he was in it, and literally chewed on her brothers chest and started sucking out the blood. This is a woman who needs a lot more help then one tiny, twenty something governess can give her. Something like a whole floor in a big house and a nurse specifically for her.
Then there's Rochester's evil treatment of Bertha which Emma needs to "forgive" him for. This horrible man took his mentally ill wife back with him to England and installed her in his own home where he could be sure that she had proper medical care. He did not dump her in a mental institution in England where she would have disappeared into these overcrowded facilities and probably shortly died of exposure or neglect before anyone could have come to save her. England's care of their mentally ill was not a shining star of their empire, that's for sure. Breath of Eyre contends that he only kept Bertha for her money. By the laws of that time Rochester had the right to do whatever he wanted with Bertha. Once he married her the money was his regardless of how he treated her. In other words Bronte specifically wrote him as a man doing the best he can with a situation that feels out of his control. He didn't tell his neighbors about her. That's not that surprising giving the social stigma about mental illness inherent in nineteenth century England. And what's he going to do? Hi everyone, come meet my wife in a padded room? Right.
I'm getting so tired of people rewriting classical novels and judging them by modern standards. If you want to understand the characters learn the history of the times. Don't try to tell them how they should have lived.