I know I’m not the only one who had a book hangover when finishing Jane Eyre for the first time. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who has read and loved it had a similar thought upon reaching the “Reader, I married him” moment: where can I find another book like this? Here are some books that I think will hit the spot for anyone seeking another masterpiece like Jane Eyre.
More by the Brontës
The best place to turn for more Jane Eyre-ish literature is to the Brontë family as a whole. Luckily for us, the family was prolific in terms of literature and we were graced with not just Charlotte but also her sisters Emily and Anne. Charlotte’s final novel Villette is considered by many to be her magnum opus. We follow Lucy Snowe, a narrator even more secretive than Jane, and observe her psychological state as she moves through life as an English teacher at a French-speaking school.
Anne is the most underrated of the Brontë sisters and deserves more attention. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre‘s feminist themes, you will adore The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The mysterious and supposedly widowed Helen Graham takes up residence at Wildfell Hall with her young son, causing speculation from the people in town. Through Helen’s diary, we slowly learn the story of her disastrous marriage and watch her gather the strength to do something that simply was not done in the 19th century: leave her husband.
For another, rather more realistic, governess story, check out Anne’s Agnes Grey. Written before Jane Eyre, it’s possible that Charlotte was inspired by her sister’s novel. Like Jane, the title character Agnes is a plain, average girl. To help her family in their financial crisis, she begins to work as a governess. Based largely on Anne’s own experiences, the novel focuses on how poorly governesses were treated by upper class families like the Ingrams from Jane Eyre.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Emily’s Wuthering Heights. If you want more of the Gothic aspects found in Jane Eyre, this is the book for you. With vast moors and specters appearing at windows, Emily is the queen of the Gothic atmosphere. A story of revenge, obsession, and the thin line between love and hate, we watch as Heathcliff torments two generations of Earnshaws and Lintons.
Inspired by Jane Eyre
Considering the popularity of the novel from it’s first publication, it is unsurprising that many writers have drawn from Jane Eyre for their own works. It is commonly believed that Daphne du Maurier did this for Rebecca. We follow a nameless young woman as she falls in love with and marries a mysterious and wealthy older man. The heroine arrives at his manor house, Manderly, to find it is haunted by the lingering presence of his first, deceased wife, Rebecca. While there are many homages to Brontë’s novel, du Maurier is full of her own twists and turns that make this book a classic of the Gothic genre.
Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre and tells the backstory of Rochester’s infamous first wife. We meet Antoinette Cosway during her childhood in Jamaica and watch her grow up and marry Rochester, who violently renames her Bertha. With a feminist and postcolonial lens, Rhys explores how a woman can be transformed into a madwoman.
For a more recent Gothic novel that still has that Victorian feel, look no further than Sarah Waters’s Affinity. Set in the late 1800s, when spiritualism began to take hold, Affinity will keep you guessing as to whether the supernatural is in action or not, just as the Thornfield section of Jane Eyre does. Margaret Prior, a depressed upper-class lady, begins visiting a women’s prison. There she meets and begins a relationship with Selina Dawes, a medium who was arrested after her seance left someone dead.
Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to the Gothic genre and reading as a whole. With ghosts, governesses, and fires, it’s perfect for any Jane Eyre fan and even includes several direct references to it. Vida Winter, a famous and reclusive writer, commissions Margaret Lea to write her biography. As Vida narrates the tale, Margaret slowly unravels the mysteries of the writer’s life and finds that it may help her discover the secrets of her own.