Sunday, April 1, 2018

Charming Charlotte Brontë

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Brontë! (with Quiz)

April holds a month of celebrated birthdays. My daughter, mother, and father were born in April. 😀 So were artists and inventors like Joan Miró and Leonardo da Vinci; world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth II and Ulysses S. Grant; actors Charlie Chaplin and Alec Baldwin; and authors Hans Christian Anderson, Washington Irving, William Shakespeare, Tom Clancy, Maya Angelou, and Harper Lee, to name a few.  Another famous author born in this month was Charlotte Brontë.

Charlotte Brontë, one of the three renowned and talented writing sisters, was born April 21, 1816.  Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë wrote Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey respectively, each using a male pen name and published their novels in the same year. Jane Eyre was an instant success.  In her journal, Queen Victoria noted that she was reading Jane Eyre to her dear Albert. She had high praise for the book remarking that it "proved so interesting that we went on till quite late."[1]  In fact, she reread it years later and commented that it was "a wonderful book, very peculiar in parts, but so powerfully and admirably written..."[2] Such praise may have been a highlight in Charlotte's otherwise tragic life

Here’s a look at that fabulously famous novel from my 2013 review:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is my favorite of the Brontë sisters' books.  This novel is the account of an orphan girl who grows up in harsh circumstances to become a governess and eventually finds love.  Throughout her challenging life, Jane overcomes as many obstacles as Wonder Woman deflects bullets. First she is abused by the aunt who takes her in after her parents die. Then she’s shoved off to Lowood, a school that puts boot camps to shame. Heat, proper meals, and decent clothing are luxury items. So is dignity. Jane is singled out and humiliated in conditions that, in this day and age, would garner lawsuits or at the very least a book deal.  She deserves a T-shirt that says “I Survived Lowood.”  After eight arduous years as a student and later a teacher, Jane finally sets out on her own as governess to Adèle Varens, ward of the formidable Mr. Edward Rochester.  She falls in love with Mr. R., which is of course, totally inappropriate given her place in the household as well as the fact that she’s kind of homely compared to his upscale friends. Will they or won’t they get together—that’s the question. And I’m not giving the answer.  I can say, however, that you may find a surprise or two along the way.  This was definitely a memorable book which I continue to hold close to my heart many years after having read it. Go, Jane!

How much do you know about Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre?

1. What was the pen name Charlotte used?
a. Currer Bell
b. Charlie Bean
c. Chuck Brawntee

2. Charlotte Brontë died:
a. While pregnant with her first child 
b. From a stroke
c. When she fell off a horse

3. How old was Charlotte when she died?
a. 23
b. 38
c. 18

4. Which one of these books did Charlotte NOT write?
a. Villette
b. Shirley
c. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 

5. In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, what is the name of the man who runs the Lowood boarding school?
a. Mr. Brocklehurst
b. Mr. Stinkleheimer
c. Father Smith

6. In Jane Eyre, what happens to Jane’s best friend, Helen Burns, at Lowood?
a. She is sent to the chokey for punishment
b. She runs away and elopes
c. She dies of consumption in Jane’s arms

7. In Jane Eyre, what was the profession of Adèle Varen’s mother?
a. She was a dancer
b. She was a washer woman
c. She was a midwife

8. What is the name of Edward Rochester’s estate in Jane Eyre?
a. Tara 
b. Thornfield Hall
c. Pemberley 

9. When was Jane Eyre published?
a. 1816
b. 1916
c. 1847

Happy Reading, 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cool Bookstores Around the World Part 2

Bookstore Bucket List, Part 2 (Books & Travel)

After my good friend in Germany sent me a Facebook video which highlighted wonderfully unique bookstores around the world, I decided to look them up share the dreamy destinations, adding other bookshops I already had on my list.  Here’s part two of my bookstore bucket list.

Word on the Water, The London Bookbarge

Photos from their Facebook page

Word on the Water is a 50-foot, 100-year-old Dutch barge packed with new and used books, a couple easy chairs, and a wood stove. Two men named Paddy Screech and Jonathan Privett opened their floating London bookstore in 2010. Until November of 2017, the barge did not have a permanent home and had to relocate every two weeks.  Now, they have been allowed to settle in a berth near Granary Square. They carry a variety of books from classics, cult, contemporary fiction, children's books, and more. At one point the barge sank, but they revived it and it is more popular than ever not just for the selection of books but also for live readings and music that take place on the barge roof.  I wonder if they sell The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, a delightful book about a traveling book barge?

Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, LA

Photos from and Faulkner House Facebook page    

Faulkner House Books in the heart of New Orleans French Quarter off Jackson Square on Pirates Alley offers fine literature and rare-edition books.  The shop was opened in 1990 by attorney Joe DeSalvo and former journalist, interior designer, and marketing company owner, Rosemary James. Named in honor of William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize-winning poet and author who rented rooms in what is now the bookstore, it has been described as America’s “most charming bookstore.”

Leakey’s, Inverness, Scotland

Photos from their Facebook page:
Right from their Facebook page: “Leakey’s Bookshop was established in 1979 and has been housed in the old Gaelic Church (1793). It is Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop with 100,000 selected volumes. [They] have been actively buying books throughout the Highlands for well over 30 years – buying that has been immensely exciting and fruitful.  The wood burning fire that heats the shop has filled many customers with amazement and some with dread. If you come to Inverness, Leakey’s will be one of the highlights of your visit.”—Can I hear an amen?

Boekhandel Dominican, Maastricht, Netherlands

Photos from their website

In Maastricht, Netherlands, you can visit another even older church-turned-bookstore.  Boekhandel Dominican is housed in a gothic monastery church built in 1294. After the “ecclesiastical function ended” in 1796, it was used as stables, bike storage, exhibition and party hall.  In 2006 it found new life as part of Selexyz and Polare book chain stores, which unfortunately went bankrupt.  Finally, in 2014 it was resurrected as the independent bookstore Boekhandel Dominican—hallelujah! This awe-inspiring bookstore sells new and used books (including English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian). It has a music section and even a coffee shop.  The Dominican, which draws about 700,000 visitors a year, also hold special events such as readings, workshops, musical entertainment, etc.

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

Photos from their website
Although this majestic bookstore looks like it might have been a church at one time, it was actually built with the intention of selling books right from the beginning.  Brothers José and Anthony Lello commissioned construction of the neo-gothic and Art Nouveau building which opened in 1906 in Porto, Portugal, a city known for its port wine.  The famous grand staircase and spectacular 26 x 11-foot stained glass ceiling exude pure elegance. It is such a large attraction that you must purchase an entrance ticket around the corner for a nominal 4€ fee which can be applied as a discount towards a book purchase. Sometimes there are lines waiting to get inside and it is often packed with people once you enter, but according to most of the comments on TripAdvisor, it’s worth the wait and crowds. 

Happy Reading, Happy Travels,


Any cool bookstores in your neighborhood?  Email me with your favorite bookstore photos.