This collection of original stories by today’s finest women writers takes inspiration from the famous line in Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel, Jane Eyre.
A fixture in the literary canon, Charlotte Brontë is revered by readers all over the world. Her books featuring unforgettable, strong heroines still resonate with millions today. And who could forget one of literatures’ best-known lines: “Reader, I married him” from her classic novel Jane Eyre?
Part of a remarkable family that produced three acclaimed female writers at a time in 19th-century Britain when few women wrote, and fewer were published, Brontë has become a great source of inspiration to writers, especially women, ever since. Now in Reader, I Married Him, twenty of today’s most celebrated women authors have spun original stories, using the opening line from Jane Eyre as a springboard for their own flights of imagination.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 22, 2016)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 22, 2016)
I first came to Jane Eyre in high school, again in a women's lit class in college, and finally a re-read a several years ago just before the 2011 movie release. I would say it is a strong like for me, rather than the love that I feel for Jane Austen's work, but I liked the Gothic feel and admired plucky and prickly orphan Jane--although I never quite understood her love for Mr. Rochester based on his abundant baggage, constant subterfuge, and treatment of her through most of the book. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants, so more power to her. Edited by Tracy Chevalier, Reader, I Married Him is a tribute to Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, and that epic line, by twenty-one female authors, each penning a short story based on how their imagination was sparked.
Like most anthologies, I found some stories drew me in immediately and stayed in my thoughts, others I sped through to get to the next and they didn't quite hit the mark. Regardless of how much I personally liked or didn't like the story, it is fascinating to see the differences in them--tone, setting, time period, etc. It was clear what inspired many stories--especially those that were more of a continuation of Brontë's tale like the 'testimony' from a very dark and creepy Grace Poole and the afterthoughts of Edward Rochester, and Jane herself--who finds after her marriage that history may be repeating itself. Others dealt with a friendship between two 'exchange orphans' (named Helen and Jane) during and after a war and a modern transference of feelings for a therapist. Feelings of isolation, relationships, marriage, and love in all of its different pairings and forms were other common themes. Because I constantly wonder why an author took a certain path, I would have loved a short forward or afterword from each author on where they took their inspiration. There is a short "Notes on the Contributors" section in the back where some of the different author's favorite scenes are mentioned, which I enjoyed reading.
If you are a Jane Eyre or Charlotte Brontë fan you will likely enjoy Reader, I Married Him, but the stories are varied enough that it isn't necessary to be--there is plenty of great writing to be found even without the connection. I was only familiar with a handful of the contributing authors and it made me write down several names to explore further. I often liken short story collections to a box of chocolates--there are treasures to be found, savored, and to want more of and there are other choices that may be less appealing based on personal taste--but in the end it is just fun to delve into, explore, and see what you like. Reader, I Married Him is a worthy collection, best explored with a cup of tea and a few pieces of delicious chocolate.
Author Notes: Edited and including a story from Tracy Chevalier, Reader, I Married Him features the following authors and you can learn more about them and connect via their respective websites, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts listed here.
Tracy Chevalier - Website | Facebook | Twitter
Nadifa Mohamed - Twitter
Esther Freud - Website
Lionel Shriver - Facebook
The book is not particularity full of inspiring food references. There was the appearance of muesli and muesli base and apples in a couple of the stories, homemade mead, curries and fruit crumbles, eggs and toast, custard, Korean bulgogi, mandu, and kimchi, fruit, steak and Malbec, porridge, and other assorted mentions.
For my book inspired dish for Reader, I Married Him, I went back to my theory of story collections being much like a box of chocolates and decided to make an assortment of dark chocolates, filled with different pantry goodies like dried cherries, cashews, hazelnuts, dry-roasted peanuts, Hawaiian seat salt, and fresh raspberries. I found some silicon heart molds at the local thrift store for .50 cents each. I bought them initially for ice cubes but thought that the hearts were apropos of the romance of Jane Eyre and the stories in this collection.
Dark Chocolate Hearts with Assorted Fillings
By, Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2 Dozen filled chocolates--depending on the size of your molds)
12 oz dark chocolate (I used Waialua Estate 70% cacao from Whole Foods), chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
assorted fillings: fresh raspberries, hazelnuts, dry-roasted peanuts, cashews, dried tart cherries, Hawaiian seat salt.
chocolate molds or silicon molds--clean and completely dry
Place chopped chocolate and coconut oil into a microwave safe bowl or microwave safe large glass measuring cup and heat for about 45 seconds. Stir carefully and repeat heating in 20 second increments, stirring in between until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. (Alternatively you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler on the stove top.)
Once chocolate is melted, carefully pour a small amount into the bottom of your molds (fill about about 1/3 to 1/2 of the mold--depending on the size). Carefully tap your mold on the counter a few times to make sure the chocolate covers the bottom part completely and there are no air bubbles.
Place your desired fillings into the molds--using a toothpick to push them down towards the bottom if needed. (I used one raspberry and hazelnut in a mold, or two to three of the peanuts, cashews, or dried cherries in a mold. For the coarse salt, I sprinkled a small pinch in and carefully stirred it with a toothpick to blend it through the chocolate.)
Using a small spoon, carefully add the remaining chocolate to each mold, covering the filling. Once all chocolates are filled and covered, carefully tap the mold against the counter a few times again, allowing the chocolate to settle and completely cover the filling with no air bubbles. If chocolate settles, add additional chocolate as needed to ensure each mold is filled to the top evenly. Carefully tap the mold a couple few more times. The melted chocolate should spread itself out fairly smoothly with the tapping, put you can smooth it out with the back of your spoon if needed.
Place in your refrigerator for about an hour for chocolate to harden. Once chocolates are completely firm, carefully remove from molds and serve. The chocolate pops out pretty easily from the silicon molds; you may have to sharply tap plastic chocolate molds on the counter to loosen the chocolates.
Store chocolates, tightly covered in the fridge. Note: chocolates containing fresh berries will keep best for a couple of days, chocolates containing dried fruit, nuts and salt can keep for a couple of weeks if they last that long.
Notes/Results: Rich dark chocolate with different filling tastes and textures inside, what's not to like? My favorites were the ones with the fresh raspberry inside for the sweet burst of fruit with the dark chocolate, but the ones with just the sea salt and the ones with the salty dry-roasted peanuts were excellent too. Oh, who am I kidding?! I like them all. ;-) Use a good chocolate that you like eating for these--it makes them a little more spendy but well worth it and still less expensive than buying them from a chocolate shop. They are rich enough that one will satisfy as an after dinner or before bed treat. I will happily make them again.
I will be linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Reader, I Married Him" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.