Imagine Classic Literary Characters living in the Modern World. Read Jane Eyre Gets Real, a Novel by Annabelle Troy, available on Amazon!

The Sense & Sensibility of #Roses

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A character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, #Mr.Darcy knows a thing or two about roses. His garden at Pemberley is full of them. The most popular styles in the Regency included Damask, White, Moss, Provence and French roses. It was common to grow roses in large pots or to plant them in gardens in a circular manner, using boxwood as “borders”, as if flowers were decorations on a page.

However, with all his love for flowers and plants, Mr. Darcy never thought of them as sentient beings. Only recently has science taken plants seriously as sensitive beings, potentially capable of feeling and communicating pain. For instance, the fragrance you smell when you mow your lawn is that of grass emitting distress signals. In a 2014 Science Alert article, researchers claim lettuce can “hear” itself being eaten (and they don’t like it one bite).

And, to quote a scene from Moonraker:

“You wouldn’t do that if you knew that flowers scream when they are picked,” said Bond.

Gala looked at him. “What do you mean?” she asked, suspecting a joke.

“Didn’t you know?” He smiled at her reaction. “There’s an Indian called Professor Bhose, who’s written a treatise on the nervous system of flowers. He measured their reaction to pain. He even recorded the scream of a rose being picked. It must be one of the most heartrending sounds in the world. I heard something like it as you picked that flower.”

Bond may be the fictional creation of Sir Ian Fleming but Sir Bhose (1858-1937) was an actual botanist who studied flowers and their reaction to pain. In the future it may turn out that roses, and other plants, are as little “at our service” as animals or, for that matter, anything else on earth. Best to stay on the safe side and treat all life gently–though Jane Eyre is still a bit on the fence about spiders.

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White Not Always Right for #Weddings

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Yes, dear reader, Jane Eyre ultimately married Rochester, her one true love. But not before his first wife shredded Jane’s wedding veils to pieces…Perhaps the color, not the intent, was what didn’t appeal to Bertha Rochester! We think of white as being traditional for a bride; this, however, only became the case after Queen Victoria chose the color (or non-color) for her own nuptials. Even after she popularized the white wedding gown many less fortunate, more practical women chose to wed in wool or linen dresses that could be worn again and again; for the wedding ceremony they often threw a colorful, patterned shawl thrown around their shoulders. In those oft-widowed times, for a second wedding a bride never wore a veil nor orange blossoms (symbols of purity); instead she was allowed to adorn herself with ostrich plumes, not flowers, and wear a dress in a muted tone such as ecru or palest violet.

Until the 18th century white was actually considered an unlucky color for brides. Only very poor women wore it to the altar, signifying that they had no dowry–that, like the color white itself, they were “nothing.”  Of course all such fashions are subject to change. If the on-trend 17th century girl wore a pale green dress (to show off her fertility), by the early 1900s if a bride wore green she was “ashamed to be seen.” As for other, once sought-after bridal colors they had been reduced to this rhyme:

  • Yellow ashamed of her fellow
  • Red wishes herself dead
  • Black wishes herself back
  • Grey will travel far away
  • Pink her marriage will sink

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Flower Girls

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Alice in Wonderland, on the fateful day she followed the White Rabbit, was too lazy to make a daisy chain. However, as a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, she enjoys watching films with flowery names in the heat of a New York summer. Below are some of her favorites:

Inside Daisy Clover: Natalie Wood is a 1930’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl turned overnight movie star. She loathes Hollywood but loves an aspiring actor, played by the Brad Pitt of his day, Robert Redford.

Violet and Daisy: offbeat indie with Saoirse Ronan and Alixis Bledel (pre-Handmaid’s Tale) as highly improbable yet oddly sympathetic teenage hitwomen. They meet while working at a doll hospital, worship a pop star called Barbie Sunday–and they shoot to kill.

Blue Jasmine:  Jasmine aka Cate Blanchett turns in her corrupt, wealthy husband to the IRS, only to find herself a penniless if well-dressed pariah forced to work as a dental receptionist.

Audrey Rose: from 1977, a forgotten occult movie that deserves to be rediscovered. Mother is told her child is the reincarnated spirit of another man’s daughter; horror ensues. Directed by Robert Wise and starring Martha Mason, John Hillerman and Anthony Hopkins–if you know who any of these people are, you should see it!

The Ballad of Jack and Rose: Daniel Day-Lewis is an aging hippie father who keeps his daughter Rose (Camille Belle) sheltered on an island that was once a thriving commune. Not for everyone but great for the girl with daddy issues.

Daisy Miller: Cybill Shepherd’s finest hour: she stars in 1974 film adaptation of the Henry James classic. Come for the white lace parasols; stay for the “natural” American girl tries to conquer wily European man romance.

What is your favorite film starring a “flower girl”?

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Rich Baby, Poor Baby

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Jane Eyre was always a governess, never a nursemaid. However, with all the hoopla surrounding the royal birth of Archie, first child of #PrinceHarry and #MeghanMarkle, she has begun to think a lot about babies (after all, she was a mother herself–she had at least one recorded son with husband Edward Rochester). Infants were treated a certain way  depending on their parents’ status; like everything in the Victorian world–and perhaps our own–wealth had a lot to do with it.

A rich baby could expect its own living space, a nursery, equipped with such items as a wicker bassinet trimmed with lace and an iron crib, often painted white or gold and adorned with ribbons. Its tiny mattress would have been stuffed with “superior horsehair”, cotton or colored wool. A nursery washstand would have been provided, as well as a fender guard to set around the open fire. Let’s not forget that, in addition to either an aloof mama (as truly wealthy women were encouraged to be, often calling their babies “little strangers”) or a doting mama in the case of the aspiring middle class, the baby would have its own servant, a nursemaid, as well as (in many cases) a wet nurse.

In the London slums, more than half of all infants died before their first birthday. Their mothers were usually expected to work and had to feed their offspring solid food early on, such as bread mashed with watered-down milk. Glass bottles for feeding were available, with nipples made of cow’s udder or a cone-shaped piece of cloth, but the bottles were often washed only once every two weeks, resulting in diarrhea and other illnesses. With fireplaces being the usual means to heat a room, without guards or fire irons the “Poor Baby” was exposed to the possibility of dreadful accidents. As for furniture, a complete set for nurse and baby cost as much as a common laborer’s annual wage.

As the poet William Blake so perfectly expressed it: “Every Morn and every Night Some are Born to sweet delight. Some are Born to sweet delight, Some are Born to Endless Night.”


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Mothers and Others

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On the eve of #Mother’sDay,  let’s reflect on the maternal situations of the characters in Jane Eyre Gets Real.

Jane Eyre: Orphan. Doesn’t have to worry about sending a Mother’s OR a Father’s Day card.

Dorian Gray: Never mentions parents. He seems to have been “created” by his portrait-painter.

David Copperfield: His gentle, widowed mother remarries a brute who makes David’s childhood miserable; nevertheless, David’s love for her never wavers.

Sherlock Holmes: It’s tempting to think he sprang from his father’s head, fully formed.

Alice in Wonderland: Her mother seems to give her a lot of freedom, letting her and her sister wander around by themselves and potentially fall into rabbit holes.

Heidi and Madame Bovary: Closest thing Heidi has to a mother is her aunt, who fobs her off on misanthropic grandfather as soon as she gets a job offer. Emma Bovary is raised by a group of nuns in a convent boarding school.

Mr. Darcy: His mama never appears in Pride and Prejudice but it’s easy to imagine her: a gracious, beautiful #Princess Diana type.

Hester Prynne: As the character most defined by motherhood, Hester conceives her child in adultery and pays a hefty price–yet still loves her little Pearl to bits. We vote her Literary Mother of the Year!

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Very Victorian Fairy Tales


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Annabelle Troy’s YA novel Hansel and Gretel Inside the House of Candy is free on Amazon May 4-8. In honor of this David Copperfield, one of the characters in Jane Eyre Gets Real, whose life as created by Charles Dickens had many fairy tale aspects, gives you a rundown on some beloved children’s stories that first appeared in the Victorian era:

The Three Bears: When this was originally published in the early 1800s by then-Poet Laureate Robert Southey the trespasser was not Goldilocks but an old woman. This may explain why she was so eager to gum porridge and to take a nap on the bears’ very comfortable beds!

The King of the Golden River: Written by John Ruskin for 12 year old Effie Gray, it’s an allegory about the natural world being destroyed by the industrial. Though upon its publication in 1851 the story became a hit, the same could not be said for Ruskin’s eventual marriage to Effie.

The Selfish Giant: By Oscar Wilde, this one may make you cry! A giant who has a lovely garden refuses to let children play in it, with disastrous results. Before he became a well-known playwright it was one of Wilde’s first commercial successes.

The Reluctant Dragon: Instead of being fierce this dragon lives in rural Oxfordshire and reads books. Written by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows fellow, in 1941 it was made into a Disney film.

Melisande: E. Nesbit, later famous for her Railway children’s novels, wrote this humorous story about a princess who longs to have long, golden hair.

If any of the above titles have intrigued you check out Victorian Fairy Tales (Oxford World Classics). And don’t forget to read Hansel and Gretel Inside the House of Candy.


Buzzzz: The Little Survivors of #NotreDame

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Everyone is aware of the devastating flames that recently wreaked havoc on the beauty of Notre Dame, Paris. Two characters in Jane Eyre Gets Real were especially alarmed: Madame Bovary, who visited the cathedral in her day and who, despite quite a few sins, still considers herself a Catholic and devout beekeeper Sherlock Holmes. Just as Emma Bovary drew a sigh of relief when she realized Notre Dame’s esteemed rose glass was spared in the fire, so Sherlock rejoiced to learn the cathedral’s bees were safe–all 180,000 of them.

Though not as famous as the cathedral’s other treasures, such as the stained glass, flying buttresses, gargoyles and Crown of Thorns, the bees are nevertheless valuable. Recent newcomers to cathedral life (they have been living on top of the Gothic building’s sacristy, in three hives, only since 2013) these hardy residents are alive and well, according to Nicolas Géant, the official beekeeper. Unlike some other species, European bees do not flee fire. Because bees don’t have lungs they cannot die from smoke inhalation–but they can be killed by excessive heat and wax in the hives does melt at 63C.  However, Notre Dame’s gallant drones gorged themselves with honey and surrounded their Queen. The fire did make them drunk, putting them to sleep–but they have since recovered and, amidst the first efforts to restore the famed building, are buzzing again: an eternal symbol of endeavor in the midst of chaos. Perhaps some of the profits from the 75kg of honey they annually produce will be used towards restoration.

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Note: Image directly above is stained glass window of Notre Dame. The honey bee stained glass at top of post is not from the cathedral!

Happy Bling #Easter

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Jane Eyre may spend this Sunday dyeing hard-boiled eggs the old-fashioned way, without vinegar, and with a lot of onion skins, plants and whatnot. Dorian Gray, her fellow character in the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, prefers a more decadent approach. These are his picks for a most extravagant Easter holiday:

Have the $2000 “Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata” at Norma’s in New York City’s Parker Meridien Hotel. Made with an entire lobster, six fresh eggs and chives, and served over a bed of Yukon gold potatoes, it’s really the 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar that makes the dish so costly.

Carry the world’s most expensive handbag: the new Easter egg-shaped design art piece designed by Debbie Wingham. The clasp is a pair of Cartier earrings, the base is 24-carat gold decorated with a mixture of pink and white diamonds. Though some of the materials which fashion the bag have been upcycled, such as the Hermes silk scarf lining, it still costs $6.7 million.

Invest in a Faberge egg–if you can find one. About 69 eggs were originally created by jeweler Peter Carl Faberge for the Russian Imperial family, of which 57 examples are known to exist. As whimsical as they are lavish, each egg contained “a surprise” upon opening; for instance, an early version in white enamel had a golden yolk inside which contained a golden hen which opened to a pendant. If you can’t afford the typical price, upwards of $10 million, per egg, either discover one of the unaccounted for examples–finder’s keepers–or just watch The Romanoffs on Netflix.

Eat an egg. The most expensive non-jeweled chocolate egg ever to be manufactured was sold at auction in 2012, for–bad news–over $11,000. Good news: a Godiva Easter basket will only set you back $100.

Here’s to finding the goose that laid the golden egg! Happiest of holidays, from Dorian Gray and the others at Jane Eyre Gets Real.

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Victorian Lamb #Cake for #Easter

Imagine Classic Literary Characters living in the Modern World. Read Jane Eyre Gets Real, a Novel by Annabelle Troy, available on Amazon!

Cakes in the shape of a lamb are an adorable Easter tradition in many parts of Europe, including Italy and Poland. Jane, the lead character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, always bakes one for Easter. She has shared this post with you on other holidays but is doing so again for new readers. (TIP: for Halloween, bake a red velvet version of this cake–blood of the lamb–and take its head off before you serve.)

First, get a lamb mold (online or at an Italian bakery). Second, follow this receipt:

LAMB CAKE RECIPE 2 cups all purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 1/8 cups sugar 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 3/4 cup milk Grease pan front and back thoroughly and dust lightly with flour. Or, mix together a paste of 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon shortening; then use to grease…

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