I’m a sucker for pretty editions of books I love. We’ve talked abut that before. But perhaps what hasn’t been that clear is that the editions don’t necessarily have to break the bank.
For example, Barnes & Noble has a whole raft of beautiful editions of classics available for excellent prices and which are often displayed at the very front of the store. So there’s no real reason other than the sentimental to hang onto your battered paperback copies of the Foundation trilogy, for example.
The book pictured above, the complete novels of Charlotte and Emily Brontë, is another good bet. Not only is it very pretty but it also saves valuable shelf space compared to having the individual tomes. It holds the usual suspects: Jayne Eyre, Wuthering Heights and the less-known Charlotte works, Shirley, Villette and The Professor.
As I am already quite familiar with the first two, my focus was on the less famous novels. I’ve seen many people cite one or another of the three as the best of Charlotte’s output but…
Shirley is all right, I suppose. An interesting novel in the Middlemarch vein (and here’s what I said about Middlemarch) but with none of the interesting gothic elements that make Jayne Eyre such an enduring work. It almost makes me think that those who prefer Shirley are like those hipsters who listen to obscure music just to prove that they are different and, in consequence, somehow better than you.
The Villette / The Professor twins are minor work in comparison. I’m glad to have read them, but they will never join the conversation.
Having revisited the Charlotte and Emily work, I will fall prey to my own argument above about obscurity. I truly believe that Anne should be celebrated at the same level.
But I suppose that particular battle is long lost. And perhaps its fair. While Anne’s writing may be better, the crazy lady locked in the tower and Heathcliff are both more memorable than anything Anne ever did… and perhaps that’s what swings the balance.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose latest novel is a comic fantasy set in ancient Greece entitled The Malakiad.