Luxury Hour: A Short Story from the collection, Reader, I Married Him

Luxury Hour: A Short Story from the collection, Reader, I Married Him
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A short story by Sarah Hall from the collection Reader, I Married Him: Stories inspired by Jane Eyre.In ‘Luxury Hour’, a new mother encounters an old lover after her daily swim and inexplicably lies to him.Edited by Tracy Chevalier, the full collection, Reader, I Married Him, brings together some of the finest and most creative voices in fiction today, to celebrate and salute the strength and lasting relevance of Charlotte Brontë’s game-changing novel and its beloved narrator.


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Luxury Hour

Sarah Hall

A short story from the collection

Published by The Borough Press

An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

First published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers 2016

Foreword © Tracy Chevalier 2016

Luxury Hour © Sarah Hall 2016

The moral rights of the authors have been asserted

Cover design by Heike Schüssler © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2016

Jacket photograph © Dan Saelinger/Trunk Archive

A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

This story is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it, while at times based on historical events and figures, are the works of the authors’ imaginations.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 9780008150594

Ebook Edition © April 2016 ISBN: 9780008173340

Version: 2016-03-09

Why is Charlotte Brontë’s “Reader, I married him” one of the most famous lines in literature? Why do we remember it and quote it so much?

Jane Eyre is “poor, obscure, plain, and little”, with no family and no prospects; the embodiment of the underdog who ultimately triumphs. And “Reader, I married him” is Jane’s defiant conclusion to her rollercoaster story. It is not, “Reader, he married me” – as you would expect in a Victorian society where women were supposed to be passive; or even, “Reader, we married.” Instead Jane asserts herself; she is the driving force of her narrative, and it is she who chooses to be with Rochester. Her self-determination is not only very appealing; it also serves to undercut the potential over-sweetness of a classic happy ending where the heroine gets her man. The mouse roars, and we pump our fist with her.

Twenty-one writers, then, have taken up this line and written what it has urged them to write. I liken it to a stone thrown into a pond, with its resulting ripples. Always, always in these stories there is love – whether it is the first spark or the last dying embers – in its many heart-breaking, life-affirming forms.

All of these stories have their own memorable lines, their own truths, their own happy or wry or devastating endings, but each is one of the ripples that finds its centre in Jane and Charlotte’s decisive clarion call: Reader, I married him.

Tracy Chevalier

IT WAS THE LAST week of the season and the lido was nearly deserted. She arrived at the usual time, changed into her suit, left her clothes in a locker and walked out across the chlorine-scented vault. The concrete paving had traces of frost in the corners and was almost painful on the soles of her feet. Light rustled under the blue rectangular surface. She climbed down the metal ladder and moved away from the edge without pausing. In October, entering the unheated pool was an act of bravery; the trick was to remain thoughtless. The water was coldly radiant. Her limbs felt stiff as she kicked and her chin burned. At the halfway mark she looked up at the guard, who was sinking into the fur hood of his parka. Nothing in his demeanour gave the impression of a man ready to intervene, should it be necessary. She took a breath, put her head underwater, surfacing a few strokes later. She was awake now, her heart jabbing. She turned on to her back, rotated her arms. The clouds above were grey and fast. Rain later, perhaps.

She swam twenty lengths, by which time she was warm and the idea of autumn seemed acceptable, then rested her head on the coping and caught her breath. The pool slopped gently against her chest. Light filaments flashed and extinguished in the rocking fluid. In summer it was hard to swim, hard to find the space; the pool was choppy, kids bombed in at the deep end, and the water washed out over the edges, soaking towels and bags. Barely an inch between sunbathers. Not many came after early September. But the old couple with rubber caps she always saw on quieter mornings were in the next lane, swimming side by side: her chin tipped high, his submerged. She followed in their wake. They nodded hello when she reached the end, and she smiled. She climbed out. Her breasts and thighs were blotched red with the chill and exertion.

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