The Other Janes

For so many people who enjoy Jane Eyre it’s Jane that makes the book for them; it’s all about Jane! She is honest, sensible, forthright, sympathetic, resilient, courageous, and principled but, I think, the most remarkable thing about Jane is her strength of will. I think we would all like to a bit more like Jane.

Here are some other books about women of unexpected strength:


Persuasion by Jane Austen, 1816, 305 p.

Persuasion  is a story of second chances. Many years ago, Anne Elliot rejected the love of her life because she was persuaded he was not an appropriate match. But now, she is startled to learn he has returned to the neighbourhood. All of Jane Austen’s work features strong women but Anne Elliot stands out as a girl who must rise above the fray, including her haughty yet profligate father and whining, flighty sisters. Persuasion offers finely drawn characters and a sophisticated story; it is poignant and bittersweet, told with witty yet gentle satire.

wives and daughters

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, 1864, 713 p.

Little Molly Gibson is a woman of unsuspected strength. Brought up by her father from a young age, she is surprised and a little dismayed when her father remarries, bringing into her life a very superficial step-mother, and a step-sister, the flighty, troubled Cynthia. The novel follows the development of the girls in the small, gossipy village of Hollingford. Wives and Daughters is a coming-of-age story, bittersweet, witty, and romantic. Told at a leisurely pace (it was published as a serial), it is both sharp and humourous.

my antonia

My Antonia by Willa Cather, 1918, 371 p.

Antonia is a girl as strong as the prairies, a girl with a fire for life. My Antonia is narrated in the first person by her friend Jim, recalling the girl from the first days when her family arrived in Nebraska as immigrants from Europe. The novel has strong sense of place, evoking the wide, clean space of the prairies. The story is soulful and rich, bittersweet and reflective, told in sparse yet beautiful prose, with a real feminist undercurrent.

never let me go

Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005, 263 p.

Kathy H. is a quiet girl but she is also pretty fearless. In Never Let Me Go her narration is direct and honest, in a book that is thoughtful, moving, and courageous. Ishiguro’s writing is known for its taut prose and emotional texture, which subtly builds tension, and Never Let Me Go is no different. It is a powerful story set in a dystopian future, where Kathy, and her friends, Tommy and Ruth, like all the other young people who attended the boarding school Hailsham, discover why they are different from others and what they were born to do. 


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