‘Reader, I Married Him’ is a collection of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier (author of Girl with a Pearl Earring). These short stories are all inspired by the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and more specifically, that famous line, “reader, I married him’. When I first came across this book I was very intrigued. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books so I was very excited to see what these short stories had to offer.
There were twenty one short stories in total and there was a surprising variety; something refreshing to remind how unique everyone’s ideas can be from the exact same starting place. There were a range of writing styles, perspectives and a range of backgrounds of the writers’ giving a diverse end result.
Some of the stories were clearly linked to Jane Eyre in the sense that they took one of the characters besides from Jane, and focused on their perspective, showing the reader a new angle of the same story. The two stories which did this very well, and were probably my favourites out of the collection, were Grace Poole Her Testimony by Helen Dunmore as well as Reader, She Married Me by Salley Vickers. The former was from the view of Grace Poole, the servant who devotes her life to looking after Bertha and the latter is from the perspective of the one and only Mr Rochester. Both of these call into question not only the original story we were told by Jane but also her character and her motives.
I thoroughly enjoyed both of these takes and the new twist they gave it, although nobody could convince me anything bad about Jane.
Many of the other stories were completely unrelated to the story of Jane Eyre itself but were inspired by the way they explored love and marriage. There were all kinds of marriages which were shared here, unhappy, blissful and tormented; marriages of convenience and those true love. The concept of love was also written about it in all of its forms and each type of love in each story was unique to the other; meaning that it was diverse and unconventional and any reader would be able to relate to some of them in some way.
Some of the short stories I enjoyed a lot more than others but I think as a collection it worked brilliantly.
The writers of these stories were all women, inspired by one woman many years ago who broke the mould and paved the way for other women, passionate about words and writing like her. I think this collection of short stories was a great tribute to Charlotte Brontë and her beautiful novel Jane Eyre and furthermore; a great inspiration for many more women writers to follow.
P.S. This collection of short stories has also made me want to write one of my own, inspired by Jane Eyre.