One of Riley’s favorite books in Loving Ashe (which didn’t make it in the novel, I don’t think, other than Ashe’s cursory glance of her books on the shelf when he first stops by her studio apartment) is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. In the rough draft which appeared on Wattpad last year, Riley writes the following quote by Charlotte on the sidewalk sign, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”
I wish that this quote made it into the final copy but it didn’t. Still, Jane Eyre – or at least a mention of it – does make it into the novel, and for that I’m glad. I always thought of Jane as the perfect representation for Riley and something that came to me later in the writing of the novel. But whatever similarities there may be (come to think of it, now – if there are) are all purely coincidental!
If you’re not familiar with Jane Eyre, the book, it is an amazing novel. It’s been adapted to the screen and one of my favorites is with Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester, directed by Kary Fukunaga. I love how the late Roger Ebert begins his review of Fukunaga’s adaptation:
Gothic romance attracts us with a deep tidal force. Part of its appeal is the sense of ungovernable eroticism squirming to escape from just beneath the surface. Its chaste heroines and dark brooding heroes prowl the gloomy shadows of crepuscular castles, and doomy secrets stir in the corners. Charlotte’s Bronte’s Jane Eyre is among the greatest of gothic novels, a page turner of such startling power, it leaves its pale latter-day imitators like Twilight flopping for air like a stranded fish.
I’m not going to spoil the book for you and I’m glad that Mr. Ebert doesn’t either.
Either you know the plot or not. Its secret is a red herring with all the significance of “Rosebud.” It functions only to provide Rochester with an honorable reason to propose a dishonorable thing, and thus preserve the moral standards of the time. The novel is actually about forbidden sexual attraction on both sides, and its interest is in the tension of Jane and Rochester as they desire sex but deny themselves. Much of the power comes from repressed emotions, and perhaps Charlotte Bronte was writing in code about the feelings nice women of her time were not supposed to feel.
Since Riley held a book club meeting once a month, I wonder if Jane Eyre made it onto her book list? Have you read Jane Eyre? What do you think?