Beyond Thornfield Hall

 

It was a cold, gray day yesterday at the Purple Ink Ranch.  Spring officially arrives on Sunday, but Winter has decided to act like a spoiled brat and is trying  to freeze my lovely pink azaleas out of spite.

In addition to the plight of my azaleas, my youngest son and I have been sick, so yesterday we laid in our beds miserable and half sleeping, our feet cold and our heads hot while my oldest son went and got smoothies and made soup.

As I lay there listening to the wind outside I began to think about some of  the first books I ever fell in love with and the woman who created them,Charlotte Bronte.

From what I have read  every day for her  must have been like my sick day.  Stuck out there on the moors with nothing to stop the cold wind seeping into her  dour Father’s home. “Was she ever warm,” I wondered.  It’s no surprise she wrote about creepy manor houses, mad women hidden away in attics and lonely women.

If you haven’t read any of the Bronte’s,  go to your closest bookstore or library now!  Go now!  And if you need a recommendation as to who you should read first, read Charlotte.

Just a few brief notes on my girl, because this isn’t a bio….

She was a very small woman, she was the oldest of the three, she was devoted to her father(which has been interpreted as a little weird at times), she was desperately, hopelessly in love with a married man who didn’t give her a second thought, she married a man after he proposed twice(could be she settled?) and she died while expecting her first child.

So there are just a few facts, but facts are not what she is famous for.  Little, small, quiet Charlotte Bronte brought to life Edward Rochester, indeed the first man I ever fell in love with.

Oh, sigh!  What a wonderful hero he was.  Dark, brooding, handsome, weird, brave, weird and yes, sexy.  I loved his gentleness contrasted with his fury.  And I loved his strangeness.  Rochester makes Jane sit with him and then doesn’t speak to her; he asked her if she thinks he’s handsome then barks orders at her; he gets so drunk he doesn’t even know his bed is on fire and he is very open about the fact he has gotten busy in France producing this child that he seems not to like at all.  Not to mention he plays with the affections of his current girlfriend cruelly and thinks its funny to dress up like an old woman at his own party.  What a nut!

But he had that spark.  That bit of bad boy danger which became the basis of all Gothic heroes which came after him.  He is tortured, guilty and only the love of Jane can redeem him.

Jane the plain.  Jane the poor.  Jane the brave.  Jane the hero.  Because she is the hero.  She is a warrior from the time she is at Longwood school to Thornfield Hall.  She hears the laughter in the night and grabs the candle to enter the dark hall.  She says no to being a mistress and goes out on her own.  Jane heads off into the dark woods of her life and doesn’t just survive, she thrives.

I remember reading the book  after watching Timothy Dalton in the PBS production of  1983.  Right after the 1st installment I got the book and read it cover to cover over one long weekend.  It was, of course, even better than the television version.

Then I read everything I could about the Brontes and everything I could about Jane Eyre, the novel.  From that stepping off point I read her other novel, Villette, which became another personal favorite.  Because this one story  of Jane and Rochester intrigued me so I went on to read Camille Paglia, Harold Bloom, Barbara Michaels and Victoria Holt and more and more wonderful writers. I also learned about the Victorian era, everything from what they ate to what they feared and cherished.

To sum up my ramblings, I think I would just like to ask you, Gentle Reader, who was your first literary love?  Who opened the door of your mind to explore?  Was is an author, a story, or a character who was your catalyst?  All lovers of books have that moment when a hand reaches out and beckons.

So tell me, who was your first?

 

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