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» Shelf Life, Adventures in Reading

Interview with Patsy Marcantel, 51, Illustrator
by Elizabeth Mullener, staff writer, The Times-Picayune, published on Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 9:31 AM

Word is that you have a kind of idiosyncratic reading life, much of it centered on one book. Right?
Well, there's this one book that has my heart and that would be "Jane Eyre." But I read plenty of other books -- almost exclusively fiction, a lot of 19th-century British literature. I love Dickens, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell. I just like inhabiting that time period.

How many times have you read "Jane Eyre?"
Too many for me to count. Dozens, for sure.

What is it about this book that appeals to you so?
It's intensely romantic. And the characters are wonderful. I love Jane, I love Rochester, I love the story, the plot, the setting -- all of it. I love the prose, the beauty of Charlotte Bronte's prose. And it's got lessons in it, too: Stay true to your values and your principles; believe that you're worthy of love, even if you're plain and small and you don't come from a wealthy family.

When did you first read it? Did it have a grip on you from the start?
It has stayed my favorite since I first read it, yes. Nothing has shoved it off that pedestal. I was 13 at the time. I bought it at a bookstore in the mall and I still have my first copy with my name on the inside front cover in my little girl's scripty handwriting. That's my most valuable copy. I own all these other ones but that's the one I've carted around my whole life, from my house in Lake Charles to dorms to apartments to this house in New Orleans.

How many copies of the book do you own?
I don't know exactly, but close to 60. I started off wanting the Edmund Dulac edition. He's a favorite illustrator of mine and this was his first paid commission. So I had to have that one. And from there I started trying to find out who else illustrated this, and I was researching and buying and then it snowballed and suddenly there were so many books.

Do you have a favorite character?
I love Jane. But I love Rochester equally. He was my first literary crush. It was like wow, the ideal man. He was funny, he was smart, he was well-traveled and cultured, he had a generous nature and a kind heart. And he recognized in Jane all the beautiful things that made her who she was. He wasn't bound by convention and that was appealing, too.

What about film adaptations? Has there ever been a really good "Jane Eyre?"
Yes, the last one from the BBC in 2006 with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. They had chemistry. The settings and the costumes were incredible. It had topnotch production values. There's another one coming up this year from the BBC with Ellen Page.

Source: www.nola.com

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