Feisty, bloody and elemental - Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre blockbuster makes for compelling viewing in an adaptation that somehow manages to be rather different from its predecessors. And if you are blown away by Bronte, you might like to read a bit more.
The script switches the time sequence and, whilst it is regarded as heresy to mess with the layout of a novel (particularly a rather good one), on the big screen it works. The dramatic opening scene draws you into the raw, passionate nature of the tale and renders the flashback all the more poignant. This scene also showcases another of the film’s strengths - its ability to exploit to grand effect the untempered and eerie beauty of the landscape. Too often seen as a mere backdrop to the travails of the upper classes, the moorland rises and stone walls of Yorkshire are brought fully into their own rough beauty.
The connection to the region is unmistakable in the accents of the lead actors (regional accents, good Lord, Georgiana, my smelling salts!). A small point perhaps but Yorkshire accents in the past were generally served for second footman to the left. Here the cadences and lilts of the voices are integral to the characters, linking their passions back to the land. But some things remain the same. Rochester is as moody and tortured as usual and, to be frank, it is difficult to fathom what is so alluring about the bloke.
1. Historical fiction
Bronte by Glynn Hughes is a fictional account of the lives of the three Bronte sisters and their dismal brother Bramwell. The skill of this novel lies in its rich detail - you can smell the camphor that an old women sucks against her teeth – and its refusal to over-romanticise tough times. And it seems that even those days people enjoyed throwing things at lawyers.
The book can be ordered through Amazon. Get hold of one if you possibly can. Hughes has a knack for sharp writing and, as well as illuminating the lives of the Brontes, the book is a fine yarn in its own right.
Elizabeth Gaskells’s The Life of Charlotte Bronte is a (flawed) classic but Rebecca Fraser’s version is seen as a definitive work. An erudite Bronte scholar, Fraser manages to combine her research with readability in what is a sensitive but critical portrait. She also examines areas which Gaskell leaves untouched, such as Charlotte’s love for a married man, and places Bronte’s work in a wider perspective which Gaskell writing in 1857 was unable to do.
3. What about his wife?
While Jane’s story cannot be told without the imprisoned Bertha, nowadays Jane Eyre cannot be read without Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys takes the mad wife on all fours in the attic and gives her a personality that stands tall. The novel charts the story of Antoinette Crossway, rechristened Bertha, the Creole heiress who became the mercenary object of the Rochesters.
With a fine ear for the nuances of local language and lush description with an edge to it, Domenican-born Rhys takes the reader from the hues and heat of the Caribbean to the icy corridors of Thornfield. It’s a terrible, reckless and heart-breaking journey. The book also promotes a different and more subtle understanding of mental illness which then, and sadly still now, can be dismissed without compassion. It is a rich and deeply emotive read.
Take heart, Hard Luxe Living