If you enjoyed reading Jane Eyre, you may find yourself wishing for a similar reading experience. But what exactly is that? What makes up Jane Eyre?
Jane Eyre is character-driven. It is a life story, an autobiography, following one character from childhood through to adulthood. It is the story of a resilient female protagonist, trying to live her life on her own terms. It is about being true to oneself. It is about finding home and redemption; it has bittersweet in tone. Though descriptive, it moves at a fairly brisk pace; and while it is a dramatic story, it has witty dialogue and sharp commentary. It has an intimate tone and strong sense of place. It is atmospheric, moody, dramatic, romantic, suspenseful, with a touch of the gothic. Finding a match for this original and beloved piece of fiction, a true classic, is a tall order. Here are some suggestions that may fit the bill.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, 1938, 446 p.
“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderly…” Rebecca is told in the first person by the current Mrs. De Winter, a young woman struggling to find her identity in the shadow of another, the title character, her mysterious predecessor. Rebecca is atmospheric and haunting, a story about an enigmatic man and house with the past hanging over it, full of dark secrets and shattering truths. The novel was critically acclaimed in its first publication and continues to enthrall readers. Compared to Jane Eyre, Rebecca is perhaps bleak, but it certainly captures the gothic tone and never since Jane has a girl had such problems with the first wife.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, 1860, 516 p.
Great Expectations is a mystery and a coming-of-age story, dramatic, romantic, and bittersweet. It is the gripping story of young Pip, a blacksmith’s apprentice, whose has the chance to become a gentleman when he inherits a fortune from a secret benefactor. From the fens to Victorian London, Great Expectations, creates a strong sense of place and character, with a tinge of the gothic in the morbid and deranged Miss Havisham. And like Jane, Pip must deal with the harsh realities of class and thwarted love. It is, perhaps, Dicken’s masterpiece. If you haven’t tried Dickens yet, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Possession by A. S. Byatt, 1990, 515 p.
Possession is a passionate love story and intellectual mystery, telling parallel narratives: one of two modern day academics attempting to uncover the truth about Victorian poets Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte; the other of Victorian poets themselves. This leisurely paced, detailed, and complex story won the Booker Prize. Like Jane Eyre, it has a sense of mystery, suspense, and romance.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 1859, 624 p.
The mystery of this book revolves around the title woman’s identity. It also features several strong female characters, resourceful and resilient. A true Victorian “sensation” novel, The Woman in White, is a thriller, involving intrigue, madness, and mistaken identities, with an underlying romance. It is dramatic and compelling, told through multiple perspectives, and intricately plotted. It was first published as a serial.