Recommended by Emma from our PIPEs team, this week’s Read is a collection of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier called Reader, I Married Him.
A friend bought me a copy of this for my birthday as we’re both fans of Tracy Chevalier and this short story collection includes one of her own.
Inspired by the last line of Jane Eyre to celebrate the Charlotte Bronte bicentenary, Reader, I Married Him is the spark for writers including Emma Donoghue, Sarah Hall and Audrey Niffenegger.
The extract below is the opening from one of my favourites – The Self-Self-Seeding Sycamore by Lionel Shriver. It tells of a widow who verbally tussles with her neighbour over a large tree in his garden. As someone who has always desired the calm demeanour of the green-fingered, I shared a great affinity with a character who battles and rages with her garden. But the story has its tender side too, bustling through the bruises of grief and human interaction. The stories in this collection vary widely, but within this eclectic mix, from unlikely proposals and wedding surprises to a new take on Jane Eyre, love is the link between them all.
“Jeanette had no idea that plants could engender so much hatred. For years, she’d left the garden to Wyndham. Weekends outdoors provided an antidote to the windowless stasis of his lab. Though their plot was sizable only by London standards, she’d humoured him. (Whatever was there to do? A little watering during dry spells, a ten-minute run of the hand mower round the lawn.)
Having begrudged the man neither his solitude nor his superfluous pottering, she treasured snapshots of her husband in muddied khaki trousers, bent over a bed, doing heaven-knew what with a characteristically intent expression. Now, of course, she knew exactly what he’d been doing. How much he’d spared her.”