My favorite book is “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte. It was in high school that I first read “Jane Eyre,” and I was mesmerized. I was captivated by every element of the novel. The gothic nature of the story was spine-tingling. But, Jane! From a young age Jane faced challenges and hardships, but never allowed them to harden her - only to strengthen her. Jane did what was morally right, even though it was painful. She did what was personally right, even though it was inconvenient. When faced with cruelty, Jane developed empathy. When she experienced loss, Jane developed self-sufficiency, but also generosity. Despite a lifetime of being confronted with her “worthlessness,” Jane never doubted her own worth. I know! I’m making Jane Eyre sound like some “paragon of virtue,” but that’s not the case. Jane experienced strong emotions - anger, sadness, and confusion, to name a few. It is how she dealt with those emotions, and how she grew through them, rather than succumbed to them, that makes this character so special. Let’s not forget that I was a teenage girl; so, the brooding Mr. Rochester and the idea of a love that could speak to you across time and distance were also appealing.
Merrile Stroud shared that she was born with a congenital kidney defect and spent many days in a hospital, or at home, while she was very sick. Books became her best friends. In the second grade, she had major surgery and spent an entire month in the hospital. Her mother gave her a copy of “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott - the full version, not some children’s abbreviated version. She read that book every waking hour until she finished it. She said that she could smell those fires, feel Marmee’s hand on her shoulder, and picture a sister sitting by her bedside holding her hand. Merrile longed for a sister to be a constant companion and best friend. From that time on, she always wanted four daughters. She described the utter joy she and John Stroud felt when they learned Baby Stroud No. 4 was a girl.
Carol Lannon loves historical fiction and shared “Katherine” by Anya Seton as her all-time favorite. It’s about Katherine Swynford, who lived in the 14th century. Her sister was married to Chaucer. Katherine’s life reads like a medieval romance, in the truest sense. A commoner, she was eventually married to one of the sons of Edward III (Edward III, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster; from them came five kings, and from Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, all other English monarchs are descended). Carol first read “Katherine” when she was quite young and was introduced to events and people who made English history. She describes Seton’s writing as extraordinary, saying it’s like the written version of Masterpiece Theater.
Tish Gailmard shared “An Hour Before Daylight” by Jimmy Carter as one of her favorites. It’s a beautiful story of his childhood in a simple, sweet time. She described it as a beautiful glimpse into the old South. Having grown up in South Georgia, not far from Plains, I also love this book.
Jeannie Harper said that her favorite book of all time is “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas (with the assistance of a ghostwriter). Jeannie appreciates the historical setting, but it’s the story’s handle on human action and behavior that she finds most intriguing. According to Jeannie, the story explores why humans do what they do, applying a pragmatism about human psychology. While she doesn’t feel that a person should use revenge as a personal mantra in life, she notes that it does make for a good story. And in the case of Edmond Dantes, she feels it is certainly justified! Jeannie says that in dealing with life’s challenges and disappointments, she reminds herself of a line from the book, spoken by the character Abbe´ Busoni, “There are two cures to all ails: time and silence.”
I hope you will spend some time with a book you love very soon.