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

Get Your Bonnet On

“Women of fashion have decreed that it is ‘bad form’ to wear new and gorgeous apparel on Easter Sunday in the bourgeois manner of past years, irrespective of the appropriateness of the season or the occasion…The day for women to appear in gaudy clothes, topped by summery hats, on a cold, blustering day of early spring ‘because it is Easter,’ and their toilets have been created for the dress parade that follows the Easter church service and must be worn, is emphatically a thing of the past and has been for several years now…”

The excerpt above was written in 1896. But the Easter bonnet–the tradition of putting on a new, festively bedecked hat on Easter Sunday–has proven to be alive and kickin’. Not only is the Fifth Avenue Easter Parade, which culminates around St. Patrick’s Cathedral, still thronged with participants, the custom has produced a worthy fundraising event: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ 31st annual Easter Bonnet Competition, will be presented April 24 at 4:30 PM and April 25 at 2 PM at the Minskoff Theatre (200 W. 45th St.). Hosts for Tuesday’s performance include Bette Midler, David Hyde Pierce and Gavin Creel as well as Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone (War Paint). There will be original numbers performed from shows such as Kinky Boots, Wicked, and The Lion King; a special parade of bonnets will pay homage to the colorful shows Sunday in the Park with George and Waitress. Some $30 tickets are still available so get them while you can! No special headgear is necessary to attend.

But, if like Jane Eyre you cannot afford expensive millinery and must make your own bonnet, you will need a pattern–easily found these days on the internet, and sewing materials, buckram, felt, ribbons and laces. Or go totally modern and make one from cardboard and duct tape. Just don’t forget the paper flowers, fake chickens, robin’s eggs and feathers–you can’t possibly overdo here.


Fiction Gets Brainy

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Famous fictional brain, Sherlock Holmes, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, was engrossed by an article he recently read in The Paris Review. Entitled The Hundred Trillion Stories in Your Head, it tells the unique story of “the father of modern neuroscience”, Santiago Ramón y Caja. The first man to apply the term “plasticity” to the brain, Caja was born in 1852 in bleak and rocky Northern Spain. His father was a humble barber-surgeon, determined that his son grow up to an esteemed doctor; his mother an incurable romantic who used to sneak little Caja novels (all fiction was forbidden by the father) like candy. With this family dynamic and a slightly different twist, Caja might have matured to become Freud before Freud himself was a twinkle in his father’s eye.

Instead, devouring the creations of Cervantes, Dumas. Hugo and other literary giants led him to come up with metaphors about cell theory. Looking through a microscope for the first time, Caja rhapsodized that he saw “captivating scenes from the life of the very small.” He even wrote and illustrated his own book about a cell-sized man who travels through huge bodies who happen to inhabit Jupiter. Becoming more and more fascinated by cell anatomy and the nervous system, Caja declared that the job of the anatomist is “to separate the apparent from the real.” This gave him the revolutionary ability to visualize the brain–and the neuron–in ways that were far ahead of his time. He imagined neurons as “protoplasmic kisses–the final ecstasy of an epic love story.”

In 1906 Caja was awarded the Nobel Prize.  Along the way, Caja made many personal and subjective drawings of the neuron, treating them like objects in a still life. He credited imagination, inculcated within him by the beloved novels of his youth, with his ability to give the abstractions of science a vivid reality. In the same way, authors distort and mold their subjects into characters, to depict a truth which captures the essence of life–so that fiction becomes not an evasion of reality but its hyper-essence, distilled.


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Counting Your Chickens Before They’re Hatched: Very Victorian Spring Problems

This year the spring equinox was March 20, so it’s official: we have sprung! Victorians, who loved all categories, enjoyed celebrating this season with their usual aplomb. Hence, the cast of Jane Eyre Gets Real presents Very Victorian Spring Problems:


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Your Chickens Have A Better Love Life Than You Do

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You Dress Your Children In White & Expect Them Not To Get Dirty

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Your Greenhouse Looks Like A Mausoleum


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Everyone Else Has Gone A-Maying But You’re Stuck At Home Baking Scones 

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Your New Pet Refuses To Play Fetch


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Rabbits Are Taking Over The School System

The Flowers In Your Garden Look A Little Too Real

Finally, no matter which holidays and traditions you celebrate, from all of us in the pages of Jane Eyre Gets Real to all of you: Have the Most Enchanting of Aprils!



I’m Like A Bird

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Birds are linked in all world mythologies to birth, death, freedom and rejuvenation–making them the perfect symbol of spring. Giving whimsy its way, here are the characters of Jane Eyre Gets Here by Annabelle Troy, reimagined as avian spirits:

Dorian Gray: peacock. A reminder that beauty should never be taken too seriously, the peacock also represents new life rising out of the ashes–a kind of vain phoenix.

David Copperfield: cuckoo. An orphan bird always looking for foster families; not known for being a hero in his own life, the cuckoo looks for other nests in which to build his future.

Mr. Darcy: bluejay. If you dream of a bluejay your subconscious is telling you to be more honest with yourself. Once you have embraced your inner jay, you will be the picture of truth, integrity–and a bit of a bully. Like a smug public school boy who can use his power for good or for evil.

Sherlock Holmes: the raven. A known detective of the bird world, ravens were followed by hunters in order to find deer; the man would slay the deer, the raven would eat the innards. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Holmes was often depicted in Victorian illustrations as wearing a “deerstalker cap.”

Heidi: chickadee. A sociable and cheerful bird, there are seven varieties, a mystical number. Harbingers of joy, they can alter their own body temperature to survive even the harshest winters.

Alice in Wonderland: goose. Not always silly, the goose is known in the spirit world for going on quests.  The wise goose teaches us that we can alter our course abruptly and still come out a winner.

Emma Bovary: swan. Symbol of feminine grace and timeless beauty, the swan strives towards refinement. If it tarnishes its feathers sometimes, it only goes to show how muddy the waters can be.

Hester Prynne: chicken. Don’t laugh. Chickens can be very powerful beings; for instance, the Russian Baba Yaga dwells deep in the forest, in a hut posed on chicken legs. She is the archetypal symbol of the mother, capable of great fertility and immense destruction–take that, KFC!

Jane Eyre: bluebird. Not just a symbol of happiness, the bluebird represents the well-adjusted ego. A dead bluebird means disillusion and innocence lost; a thriving one stands for radiant transformation into a higher self.

Now get out there and go feed some ducks!!!


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Dorian Gray & the Leprechauns

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In addition to being a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, Dorian Gray was created in 1890 by Oscar Wilde. Of Irish ancestry (Wilde’s mother, Lady Jane, who wrote poetry under the pen name Speranza, supported the Irish national movement), Wilde identified with the Celtic country in that he saw himself as an outsider. He rebelled against conventional British morality; like his then-shocking homosexuality, Ireland represented his shadow side. Some modern critics consider A Picture of Dorian Gray, with its Gothic and Romantic overtones, to be a national tale of Ireland. Others consider it to be an English novel written by a man with an Irish father (an ear and eye surgeon) who would die, alone, penniless and almost friendless, in a Paris hotel room.

A more well-known symbol of Ireland, trotted out every St. Patrick’s Day (which falls on Friday, March 17), is the leprechaun. Sometimes the word “leprechaun” is traced to that of  “bhrogan”, meaning shoemaker. Cobbling is indeed the traditional occupation of these little, bearded men, a cousin of the fairy–interestingly there are no female leprechauns. Depicted as solitary, and often nasty, the leprechaun was originally shown in folklore as wearing red, not green. and clad in a leather apron. Every leprechaun is considered to have one pot of gold which he keeps at the end of a rainbow (the sprite equivalent of a bank). If you ever hear the tap, tap, tap of a teeny hammer you will know that one is near. Be careful, though; charming one minute the leprechaun can easily turn on you and kill you with a glance, especially if he thinks you are after his gold.

What does Dorian Gray have in common with leprechauns? Nothing, actually. They make him shudder; the astonishingly handsome man’s worst nightmare is to wake up looking like this:

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Be A Princess Or Just Look Like One

Alice in Wonderland is a kind of Victorian fairy tale princess–led astray by a magical rabbit, plunged into adventures with queens, hatters, and caterpillars, careful all the while not to rumple her pinafore. She is a girl who exhibits great wit, character, and resourcefulness. In today’s world fairy tales are hot again, at least the Disney versions. Inspired by the upcoming premiere of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson, Alice has composed a list of things any ordinary girl can do to emulate a princess:

Let Down Your Hair: Rapunzel-like, ravishing locks are a cinch with super-long clip-in hair extensions. Seven pieces of 24″ straight, virgin hair will run you about $100. Remember, blonde is so 1016–try brunette, bright red or even ombre.

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Slip Into Glass Slippers: OK, they may not be real–but when is magic, ever?! Lucite heels make a great substitute for glass; they will be just as transparent and won’t disappear at midnight. We can’t say the same for the Prince.

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Get Enough Beauty Sleep

You may not need 100 years like some girls but 7-8 hours of sleep a night is essential to prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Fairy Godmother tip: invest in a silk pillowcase to wake up looking extra-smooth.

Rosy Pink Silk Pillowcase

Puff Up Your Sleeves

Rock the Snow White look–boho peasant blouses with scoop necklines and puffed shoulders are everywhere now. Just try not to make any witches poison-green with envy.

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Adopt a Frog. 

Tree frogs are dying out in the rainforests of Central and South America. Help keep the species thriving; contact 1-800-CALL-WWF to save one now. A frog adoption kit is $55 and comes with a species card, adoption certificate, and plush toy cute enough to kiss.


Finally, what do princesses read? Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy. Get your free copy on Amazon March 8-12.

The Great Comet of 1812

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Mr. Darcy recently took his beloved, Emma Bovary, to see Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway. Because being plucked out of his novel and placed into modern life (you can read all about this in the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real) has forced him to suffer reduced circumstances, they didn’t sit on the stage, where the audience interacts with the cast. They had to settle for the mezzanine; luckily the show is staged in a circus-like way with action going on all over the theater. A bit of a mash-up like Hamilton–and like Jane Eyre Gets Real–the play takes scenes from War & Peace, primarily those focusing on Natasha cheating on her betrothed, Andrey, a heroic soldier off fighting Napoleon, and sets them to music which ranges from soul and folk all the way to electronic-Russian-gypsy-fusion-funk.

When Natasha is found out she becomes the greatest drawing room pariah since Anna Karenina. But she has one champion–Pierre, a nobleman/scholar/semi-recluse who happens to be Andrey’s best friend, and who is desperately seeking peace in his own life. Having married a beautiful but shallow (in fact, depraved) woman who constantly humiliates him, Pierre is no stranger to despair. His sympathy for Natasha, who is forsaken by everyone else including Andrey, leads to a gentle love developing between them. Though this is not shown in the musical, readers of War and Peace know that upon Andrey’s death (from wounds incurred in battle), Pierre and Natasha ultimately wed: two scarred souls who have made mistakes but find redemption in each other.

Emma Bovary loved Natasha (played by  Denée Benton) and her elegant white gowns. But she agreed with Mr. Darcy that the soul of the show is Josh Groban as Pierre. While foot-stomping dances, buoyant instrumentals, and strobing lights comprise much of the show, the ending is pure. When Josh Groban sings about how the historical comet portends a new blossoming in his hitherto stagnant life, the brightest light that shines is his voice.

Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. Darcy would have been a young man in 1812, watching the historic comet blaze across Regency skies. Sitting in the Broadway theater, so far from home and from his past, he couldn’t help but quiver with the memory.


A Most Angelic Flower

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When the March sun began to melt the snow on the slopes, the first snowdrops came out”–quote from Heidi

The snowdrop that Heidi would have seen blooming in the Swiss Alps represents the common genus; there are twenty other varieties. But Heidi, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy, has always known that simple things are best. Known to flower as early as January, the little snowdrop poking its way out of the cold creates an image that is both pure and hardy.

According to one folk legend, the first snowdrop appeared when an angel saw Eve, cast out of paradise, crying in the cold. The angel blew on a snowflake and created the delicate flower to comfort her. Another legend, from Germany, says that the snow visited all the flowers on earth and asked each one to give it a color. All the flowers, who apparently have selfish natures, refused. Only the gentle snowdrop cheerfully said yes; hence the snow became white and allowed its benefactor to bloom first among all flowers every spring.

Though usually thought to symbolize hope, the Victorians saw snowdrops as emblems of death and considered it unlucky to gather them and bring them home. Of course, the Victorians saw death everywhere!  During Candlemas (Feb. 2) medieval peasants would remove enshrined pictures of the Virgin Mary and replace them with snowdrops, cultivated in monastery gardens. On a more practical note in some countries, the alkaloid found in the snowdrop is used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. Snowdrops are the traditional birth flower for those born in January, though you probably won’t see one before early March. Remember to watch out for these symbols of rebirth as winter brightens into spring; don’t step on one by mistake because you might crush its gentle soul.

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The Heart of Mr. Darcy


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Yes,  it’s almost that time again–Valentine’s Day when our thoughts turn to the heart. Of all of literature’s romantic heroes Mr. Darcy is probably the most popular. He is certainly the total package: intelligent yet normal (when compared with say Heathcliff), less of a liar than Rochester, richer than Tom Jones, younger than Maxim de Winter. His heart has captured that of many ladies. But what, in the Regency, WAS a heart’s true value and how was it measured?

Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. The first stethoscope was invented in 1816 by Doctor Laennec; when he saw a female patient who seemed to be suffering from a diseased heart he felt it unseemly to lay his head against her chest, so he took a piece of paper, rolled it into a tube and listened that way. Later he would perfect his invention by making the tube out of wood; an early version of his stethoscope can be seen today at the Science Museum, London. The part that plugged into the ears, via flexible bifurcated tubing, didn’t arrive until 1850.

The Regency era also saw medicine grow as a profession. The poet John Keats studied to be a doctor–though tuberculosis fatally shortened that career. Regency doctors often carried their instruments around in black leather medical bags. These instruments included mainly saws and other grisly things. No one had yet invented the blood pressure cuff; however, doctors understood that blood pumped through the body and would test the patient’s pulse the old-fashioned way–by using their fingers. Ironically, it was in this burgeoning age of science that the heart being the seat of emotion–a fancy stemming from ancient Roman times–began to be questioned.

Scientists now believe that the heart does play an active role in determining our feelings, along with the brain. In fact the heart and the brain are in a constant dialogue; the brain sends signals to the heart which then responds in a myriad of ways–by slowing down, beating faster or even skipping a beat. Forget Eliza Bennett and Mr. Darcy; the heart and the brain might be the world’s most sympathetic duo.


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