I just read Hungry, the Stars and Everything, by Emma Jane Unsworth, having heard the author at Bury Literary Salon last month. I was intrigued by a question someone asked: why does the novel reference Jane Eyre? More specifically, why does a main character eat pages from that book when he’s finished reading them? Emma replied simply that it was a book that everyone knew.
Very true, so when Jane Eyre popped up in another book I was also reading - The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield – I shouldn’t have been surprised. The two novels couldn’t be more different – Hungry is a coming-of-age story that turns into a romance with a feisty anti-heroine and a dash of magic realism; The Thirteenth Tale is an ambitious attempt to recreate a classic nineteenth century novel – think Jane Eyre with a dash of Wuthering Heights, a pinch of The Woman in White and a good few others in the mix. Jane Eyre is there physically – a page from the novel is amongst a character’s most prized possessions – and in the structure of the novel. (Both Hungry and The Thirteenth Tale are first novels, and I should say I would be proud to have written either.)
Jane Eyre is of course, a literary beacon which adds a little sparkle to these two novels and many more: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea are the two most obvious examples.
Perhaps there's a literary game here - the literary equivalent of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. How many degrees of separation are there between the novel you are reading (or writing) and Jane Eyre?