Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reader, I got it wrong.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was describing a book to someone the other day, and realized I was actually describing the movie. It might have been To Kill A Mockingbird. Or Silence of the Lambs. Anyway, the reality of the book vanished, replaced by the easier-to-remember movie. And I was so surprised, reading Mockingbird again, that the movie is only a tiny bit of the book.

I was reassured, then, to hear from the amazing Michelle Gagnon that I’m not the only victim of misremembering.

ooh, Orson Welles!
Her new book, by the way, is a newly imagined version of Jane Eyre. Brilliant.

Misremembering Jane Eyre







 
“Little girl, a memory without blot or contamination must be an exquisite treasure—an inexhaustible source of pure refreshment; is it not?”
                    Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre





I first read Jane Eyre in high school, and dove into it again after college. Since it’s one of the few books that I’ve ever re-read, when I decided to write a modernized, deconstructed version, I was confident that I remembered the story.

And then I read it again.

Memory is a funny thing, I quickly realized. It turns out that I mainly recalled about the romance between Jane and the tempestuous Mr. Rochester (I chalk that up to being a teen when I first encountered it). Although in truth, I hadn’t even remembered their relationship entirely correctly.

There’s a phenomenon called “The Mandela Effect,” a situation where you might think something happened in a particular way, but it turns out you’re mistaken. According to Buzzfeed, “The name of the theory comes from many people feeling certain they could remember Nelson Mandela dying while he was still in prison back in the ’80s. Contrary to what many thought, Mandela’s actual death was on Dec. 5, 2013, despite some people claiming to remember seeing clips of his funeral on TV.”

Bizarre, right? And yet it applied directly to my mistaken memory of the plot of Jane Eyre. For example:

·      I remembered Jane’s time at Thornfield Hall taking up the bulk of the book, while in fact the lengthy outset of the novel relates her childhood and time at the Lowood Institution; and then there’s an equally long chunk at the end where she becomes acquainted with the Rivers (who turn out to be long lost relatives, a coincidence I’ve always had trouble forgiving Bronte for).

·      Rochester. In retrospect, not as great a guy as I thought. He quickly becomes weirdly possessive. Re-reading the book twenty years later, I couldn’t help but think, “Stalker much?” as he rattled off lines like, “But listen-whisper-it is your time, now, little tyrant but it will be mine presently; and when once I have fairly seized you, to have and to hold, I’ll just-figuratively speaking-attach you to a chain like this,” touching his watch guard. “Yes, bonny wee thing, I’ll wear you in my bosom, lest my jewel I should tyne.”

I mean, dude. Simmer down. Part of what I loved about Jane Eyre was how revolutionary a strong, independent heroine was for that time period. Yet in the chapters leading up to their aborted marriage, it turns out that Rochester doesn’t really seem to get her at all. Mind you, I’m still Team Rochester, but his character wasn’t exactly how I’d remembered (although maybe I just found his full-throttle courtship more romantic as a fourteen-year-old).

·      Elements of the supernatural. Because of the pervasive Gothic atmosphere, I’d thought that Jane Eyre incorporated many supernatural elements. In fact, there are only two truly strange occurrences in the entire novel. The first is when, as a child, Jane sees a glowing light glide across the room; as she puts it, “I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world.” 
       Reflecting as an adult, however, she chalks it up to a childish fit of nerves. (Mind you, the light never returns, which was a bit disappointing; why introduce a fantastic McGuffin like that if doesn’t factor into the story later? Unless it was meant to be a foreshadowing of future fires…) 

     The second supernatural occurrence (and, at least according to Jane, only true one) is when Jane hears Rochester calling for her at a pivotal decision making moment, despite the fact that in actuality, he’s miles away. Tres romantic, yes? But that’s the only truly unexplained supernatural element in the story.

·      >The fire. Perhaps because Wide Sargasso Sea is another favorite of mine, I mistakenly thought that we actually saw Thornfield Hall burn in Jane Eyre: alas, not so much. The reader only finds out about the tragic fire afterward, when Jane returns to discover nothing but blackened ruins. So my vivid recollection of those events must be due to Jean Rhys’s fine work.

So I’m curious: Did any of you suffer from the same “Mandela Effect” in your memory of Jane Eyre? Or perhaps with another book?

(My favorite non-literary example, by the way, is this: in the film version of Silence of the Lambs, one of the top quoted lines is “Hello, Clarice.” But guess what—Hannibal Lecter never said that. Here’s a link to more if you’re curious) 

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: And politicos, Woodward and Bernstein have said no one ever admonished them to “follow the money.” That’s only in the movie. 

But hey.  I remember the fire too.  Definitely. 

So let’s do a giveaway.  When did you read Jane Eyre?  Or did you? Did you just see the movie?  What do you remember? And are there other books you get mixed up with the movie? Or where the movie got it wrong?
Every comment is entered to win Michelle’s Unearthly Things.

 



Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre retold against the backdrop of San Francisco's most fabulous—and dangerous—elites.

After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.

Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.

"Effortlessly paced, full of heart, humor and horror, Gagnon revives the spirit of a classic while putting her own unique spin on the story…addictive, fast-paced and haunting."
—Madeleine Roux, New York Times bestselling author of the Asylum series


Michelle Gagnon (www.michellegagnon.com) is the bestselling author of thrillers for teens and adults. Her young adult PERSEF0NE trilogy (Don’t Turn Around, Don’t Look Now, Don’t Let Go) was nominated for a Thriller Award, and was selected as a top read by Entertainment Weekly, Kirkus, Voya, and YALSA. Her standalone thriller Strangelets was a Junior Library Guild pick. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

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70 comments:

  1. Michelle, I probably would have remembered Jane's time at Thornfield Hall taking up a larger chunk of the book, too, before I read your post here. But now, I remember the other parts being long parts, too. I didn't misremember the fire though. I do remember Jane coming upon the blackened ruins as the reveal that the house had burned. Maybe having not read Wide Sargasso Sea helps me there. I'm not sure when I last read Jane Eyre. It's probably been ten years.

    Your retelling of Jane Eyre in Unearthly Things is definitely a book I'll be reading.

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  2. The book is always so much more that the film, but reading the book and seeing the film often means that the film clouds my memory of the book. Fascinating, this whole Mandela Effect . . . .
    It’s been so long since I’ve read “Jane Eyre” that, in truth, it’s all a bit fuzzy, so reading this post has been very interesting. “Unearthly Things” is definitely on my “want to read” list . . . .

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    1. I agree- although weirdly, I think one of the few exceptions IS Silence of the Lambs; the book threw in a completely unnecessary (and unbelievable) romance for Clarice, and the movie's ending was better, too.

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  3. Like Joan, it has been so long since I read "Jane Eyre" in junior high school. Never saw the film, so I can't compare. The re-imagining of Jane Eyre in Unearthly Things sounds intriguing, Michelle. I will add this to my list of upcoming titles.

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    1. It's surprising how many films there are. Netflix has had at least two versions, possibly three.

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    2. Thanks! And yes, a glut of films, none great, sadly...

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  4. Michelle, congratulations on the new book! There is something so fascinating and enduring about Jane Eyre. Ordering yor book right now.

    That Rochester is actually a nasty piece of work is the main thing I misremember. Anyone interested in more on that topic, have a look at the BBC's THE SECRET LIFE OF BOOKS episode about Jane Eyre. I watched it on Acorn. Journalist and novelist Bidisha travels to the Bronte's family home in Yorkshire and visits the British Library to examine Bronte's original manuscript and intimate letters Charlotte Bronte wrote to a married professor... wheels within wheels.

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    1. I watched that too, must check and see if any new episodes have been added, can't beat Acron for good viewing experiences

      Ann

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    2. Ooh that is interesting, adding it to my list!

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  5. I read Jane Eyre when I was in the eighth grade, and had to do an oral book report on it. I was deep into Theatre at the time, so naturally I did the whole thing in costume--even made myself a snood. I'm not sure how my teacher felt about all that, but I do remember that I gave a teaser of a plot synopsis and, after I was finished, one of the girls whom I would least imagine to be a reader dragged me aside and demanded to know how it ended. I remember enjoying the book, but what I thought was the coolest thing was that all three Bronte sisters were writers. I don't think I've ever revisited Jane Eyre, or seen a film version. I'd love to check out Michelle's take on it.

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  6. Michelle, tell us how you got this idea! It is such a good one.

    And I am trying to remember when I read Jane Eyre… It must've been in high school, I guess… it does feel like something I know.

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  7. I've been meaning to reread Jane Eyre, partly because of the excellent recent TV presentation about the Bronte family. I'm pretty sure I haven't read it since the last 70's, and when I did it was shocking what a different perspective I had from when I'd read it in high school. Yep, the romantic parts overshadowed the rest.

    The biggest discrepancy between book and movie was The Last Mohicans. Daniel Day Lewis made Natty Bumpo into an almost super heroic figure, while in the books he was dull as dishwater. How do I know? Because that stupid movie inspired me to read the entire Leatherstocking series, dammit. Out of all of Cooper's books the movie script took maybe five minutes and a handful of characters, and actually made it exciting.

    Mark Twain agreed with me. He wrote a hilariously scathing review of the series. If you ever want to read something pee-your-pants funny, look it up.

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    1. The famous line that isn't in any of the books is "Stay alive. I WILL find you." More's the pity.

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    3. Karen, Last of the Mohicans - or anything by James Fenimore Cooper - is better as a movie than as a book. Coopers bloated literary style not only is outdated in our time, it barely outlasted his own life. 40 years after Cooper's death, Mark Twain wrote: "Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record." It's part of a magnificent literary take-down (and some very good advice on writing from a master) well worth reading. http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/projects/rissetto/offense.html

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  8. Although I've seen the movie, on a projector in some English Lit class, I haven't read the book since ninth grade. My only memory is that Rochester is to be avoided by nice girls. And just look where I ended up living.

    I'd love to read an updated story set in my favorite city, San Francisco, which has its fair share of wuthering heights. Oh wait. Wrong book.



    Ann in Rochester

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  9. Wuthering Heights has its share of abusive controlling males as well.

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    1. Yeah. I suspect many Team Heathcliff members only saw the Olivier/Oberon movie and don't realise how seriously dangerous and nasty the "hero" actually is. (I'll stop short of using the ps-word.)

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    2. Exactly! And I just finished reading Jasper Fforde's excellent "The Eyre Affair" (and thes rest of the series) where the literary Heathcliff has snuck off to become a tempestuous movie star. Well worth reading the whole series.

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  10. I don't think I read Jane Eyre until college - and by then I had the benefit of reading it in a Women and Literature class that explored exactly how creepy Rochester was.

    Mary/Liz

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  11. And am I the only one who gets Rebecca and Jane Eyre mixed up? In Rebecca we do see the fire.

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    1. Do we? I think it's only the in movie.... :^0 In the book, isn't it just ashes floating on the wind and glow in the sky?

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  12. TOTALLY! I was JUST getting ready to write that! I cannot separate those two books.In fact, I think Jane lived at Manderley. She really did.

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  13. Reading Jane Eyre was an introduction to the important classics which I enjoyed and continued to read and still do. The profound novel, the characters and the era all are captivating and unforgettable.

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  14. I've read and re-read Jane Eyre frequently. I do remember one time when I returned to the book & was also surprised by how much takes place before she meets Rochester. My personal copy of the book is one that belonged to my mother long before she married. It has her childhood nickname inscribed in the front.
    I also remember re-reading Gone With the Wind. There is so much left out in the movie - including Scarlett's first children!

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    1. I read GWTW in college. There is a world of difference between the book and the movie. Like extra husbands and children!

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    2. I've actually read GWTW, but have never seen the movie. Clearly that needs to be remedied.

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  15. I read Jane Eyre in my early teens and this started my love of British novels, the emotions that pulled at my heart and the importance of the writing and portrayal. Nothing was so captivating and meaningful. I only saw the move in black and white much later.

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  16. Okay, I've read Jane Eyre a million times and seen a LOT of the movies. (I found 35 hits at IMDB; Hound of the Baskervilles has 40). I'd say the Orson Welles version is one of the weakest. Yes, I love the book and many of the movies, and with Michelle, I'm still Team Rochester (despite his glaring faults).

    I think I'm guilty of Misremembering the Book when it comes to good lines. There are some excellent lines from Pride & Prejudice (1995) that I could have sworn were in the book, but not. Same with A Christmas Carol (a movie that's been made more often than JE and HotB combined). The Alistair Sim version, 1951, has some excellent bits that are non-existent in the Dickens Version.

    This is a great topic.

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  17. Just like you Hallie, when Hank was talking about whether or not the fire was in the movie or the book, I started thinking of Rebecca instead of Jane Eyre -- didn't crazy women start both the fires? I had never heard of the Mandela effect until now. I followed the link and got a few surprises -- I thought that the "Hello Clarice" line was from later in the movie when Hannibal Lecter said, "People will say we're in love." Creepy...

    I read Jane Eyre in middle school, I think. We have a gorgeous copy of that and Wuthering Heights with the most exquisite wood cut illustrations that really convey the darkness of the story.

    Unearthly Things has definitely been put on my TBR list -- I can't wait to read it.

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  18. What a terrific idea for a book, Michelle - I'll be sure to grab UNEARTHLY THINGS. I very much enjoy modern reimaginings of classics. Along with Wide Sargasso Sea, I can also recommend AHAB'S WIFE by Sena Jeter Naslund and the deliciously funny ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld.

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  19. Love Eligible! (And I felt kind of guilty reading it, so happy to hear you read it, too. Did you read Swans of..what is is? New York? About Truman Capote.)

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  20. I've never read Jane Eyre. However, there is a scene in The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare that I always have to remind myself isn't actually there. I was reading the book one night before bed, and I dreamed a scene that took place right about where I had left off in the book. Even now, 30 years later, it feels like it should be part of the book when I think about the book. And when I've reread the book, I have to remember that as well.

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  21. I don't think I've read either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights since middle school. Although I was fascinated by the idea of the three isolated, tragic, writer sisters, I did not love either book. I thought both Rochester and Heathcliff were creepy, Heathcliff even more so! And I don't remember seeing movie versions of either.

    I would swear that we really do see the fire in Rebecca, but now will have to go back and reread!

    Michelle, I love your deconstructed Jane--can't wait to read!! And yes, tell us where you got the idea!

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    1. Thanks! And oddly, it came to me as I was drifting off for a nap and thinking of Wide Sargasso Sea...

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  22. I love the idea of modernizing classic tales. I love the idea of modernizing the gothic in general! Is it my imagination, or has the gothic made a comeback? I'd loved others' take on this.

    I look forward to reading your novel, Michelle. I, too, misremember the supernatural aspect. REBECCA is one of my favorite novels. In my mind, Havers is far more present on the page than she actually is. Guess this goes to show what a great character du Maurier created! (Yes, Debs, I think we do see the fire in REBECCA ... don't we? :-))

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    1. LOVE Rebecca. I was actually thinking of tackling that one next :)

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    2. I was thinking of doing that too. :-)

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  23. I do love a good retelling. Michelle, I read Jane Eyre so long ago that I am quite positive I remembered it differently, too. Rochester was a bit of a jerk, wasn't he? Can't wait to see what you've done with it. I'm trying to remember if I've suffered the Mandela Effect, but honestly, life is moving so fast, I can barely remember yesterday and would likely misremember it anyway! Ack!

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    1. I definitely went for a more deconstructed version; Rochester is SUCH a jerk in mine!

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  24. Thanks for stopping by JR, Michelle! "Unearthly Things" sounds intriguing! The Mandela Effect is surely at work when people quote "Casablanca." Rick never said, "Play it again, Sam." There are two exchanges in the movie in which Sam is encouraged to play:

    Ilsa Lund: Play it once, Sam. For old times' sake.
    Sam: [lying] I don't know what you mean, Miss Ilsa.
    Ilsa Lund: Play it, Sam. Play "As Time Goes By."
    Sam: [lying] Oh, I can't remember it, Miss Ilsa. I'm a little rusty on it.

    and then:

    Rick: You played it for her, you can play it for me!
    Sam: [lying] Well, I don't think I can remember...
    Rick: If she can stand it, I can! Play it!

    I guess "Play it!" doesn't sound as romantic!

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    1. Fantastic example. You're so right.

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    2. When Ilsa returns to Rick's the next night, as soon as she walks in, Rick leans over and whispers something to Sam, who immediately starts playing "As Time Goes By." I like to believe that's when he says "Play it again, Sam."

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    3. Yes, yes, exactly. I'll believe that, too.

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  25. "when once I have fairly seized you, to have and to hold, I’ll just-figuratively speaking-attach you to a chain like this,” touching his watch guard."

    50 Shades of Rochester?

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  26. I did a lot of my classics reading in junior high. I remember thinking Jane Eyre was sooo gloomy. And so was Wuthering Heights. I've seen various movies of each and they were gloomy too. As for those men, forget it! Yeesh. I think the fire that hit Manderley probably spread from Rochester's house. As for movie adaptation I think the movie of the Godfather was better than the book.

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    1. Oh, The Godfather. Yes, amazing, and I agree,yes, better than the book.

      And that's so funny about the fire spreading. Agreed. And it made the heights wuther, too.

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    2. Great example...and another one is JAWS, weirdly. The film is far superior.

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  27. I remember reading the book when I was pretty young..Jr. High school maybe?...and then seeing the movie. Some years later I read the book again and remember being surprised at how little time was actually spent at Rochester Hall. I've wanted to reread Jane Eyre for a long time...maybe this will be the push to do so! And to read it carefully now that I'm old(er). I DO remember having a HUGE crush on Orson Wells after seeing the movie! Your book sounds fascinating, definitely something I want to read.

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  28. I don't remember reading Jane Eyre. But I have to say that the book is always better than the movie to me.

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    1. My 2 examples to the contrary are always Silence of the Lambs and About A Boy (which had a MUCH better ending than the book). But I agree, it's rare!

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  29. I first read Jane Eyre in junior high and loved it. As one of my favorite books I re-read it several times so I doubt I mis-remember it. However, knowing the first part of the book seemed long and tedious, I skipped it in all my re-readings. Could never tackle Lowood more than once. What pops to mind when I think of it is "Reader, I married him." So I ask you, am I mis-remembering my favorite line? I hope not. (Btw, I only saw the movie version with George C. Scott.)

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    1. Reader, I married him is definitely in there! good memory!

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  30. There is an excellent BBC version of Jane Eyre shown on Masterpiece Theater in 2007 starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens (Dame Maggie Smith's younger son). It's worth looking for as is a much older version of Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall also shown on Masterpiece Theater and starring a much younger Toby Stephens and Tara Fitzgerald (also to be in the 2007 Jane Eyre.)

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    1. Oh, I didn't know about that, ReaderKay! Thank you!

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    2. Thanks, I'll definitely check it out!

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  31. Michelle, thank you so much! Standing ovation for the book--and I will pick a winner very soon!

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    1. Thanks for having me, this was so much fun!

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  32. I first read Jane Eyre in high school also and what I remember most from that first reading is Jane's time in Lowood - how she not only survived its destructive atmosphere but transformed it. I enjoyed the "romance" part but the Lowood section was the first piece of literature to introduce me to a strong woman character.

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  33. Oh, so interesting, Nancy! It's wonderful that it made such a difference… Perfect!

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  34. THIS JUST IN! And the winner of Michelle Gagnon's UNEARTHLY THINGS is: Karen in Ohio! Send me your address at h ryan at wdh dot com and the book will be on the way! HURRAY!

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