Yes, Reader, She Married Him. Ever Wonder Why?

A former university librarian, author Sara Shoemaker makes her debut with the novel Mr. Rochester (just out from Grand Central Publishing), an intimate look at the life of one of literature's most moody men. Below Shoemaker describes the inciting event that led her down the dark and brooding path.

photo: Kent Shoemaker

Several years ago, my book group discussed Jane Eyre, and, not surprisingly, the talk drifted to Mr. Rochester, this strange and moody man who is sometimes playful and other times angry, who seems to care for Jane but romances Miss Ingram, and who, it turns out, keeps his insane wife in an upstairs apartment. Who is he, really, and why is Jane attracted to him? Some of the group said, "Sometimes people make big mistakes in love, falling for the wrong person." Others said, "Not Jane; she's too intelligent, too morally grounded, too independent." As the discussion continued in that vein, I finally thought to myself, and then said out loud, "Someone ought to write a book about Mr. Rochester, so that we can understand where he's coming from--what's behind the things he says and does."

Coming home that day, I decided to write that book, to understand for myself what is the basis for Rochester's actions. Easy enough, I thought at the beginning, all I have to do is explain all the years before he meets Jane. Actually, it turned out not so easy after all, for I had not really counted on Rochester's complexities, but I was determined to get to know him and care about him in all his moods. As I wrote, I tried to keep in mind a quote from Charlotte Bronte herself: "without esteem, true love cannot exist." Jane saw something in him, I told myself, and I tried to help the reader, and myself, to see that "something," too.

It was much later that I came across a statement from Toni Morrison that perfectly fits what I have done: "If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."

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