Published in 1847, Charlotte Brontë’s Gothic romance Jane Eyre was one of the most groundbreaking novels of its time and it continues to allure readers to this day. Touching upon themes like feminism, mental illness, sexuality, and religion, this revolutionary novel was considered to be far ahead of its time and is considered to be one of the great works of 19th-century literature. This bildungsroman told in a conversational first-person follows the eponymous title character as she navigates life in an abused household, through a bleak finishing school, and onto a placement as a governess at the imposing Thornfield Hall — home to the mysterious Mr Rochester. Jane Eyre has mystified readers since its publication and it remains a favourite novel to many even in 2019. If you happen to be one of these people and you are on the search for more books like Jane Eyre, then these ten suggestions are sure to satisfy.
10 Books like Jane Eyre
Villette, by Charlotte Brontë
As Charlotte Brontë’s third published novel, released in 1853, Villette is an excellent choice if you’re on the hunt for books like Jane Eyre. Believed to be a reworking of Brontë’s first unpublished and unsuccessful novel The Professor, Villette is a fantastic addition to any reading list of fans of the Gothic romance.
Though certainly not as well known as Jane Eyre, Villette was considered by many well-respected literary critics — including George Eliot and Virginia Woolf — to be Brontë’s greatest work. The coming-of-age novel follows protagonist Lucy as she navigates her early life in Victorian England before heading to the French-speaking town of Villette to teach at a girls school. It is here that Lucy is drawn into both romance and adventure.
Villette follows many similar themes as Jane Eyre, however, the protagonist is notably more passive. However, it still explores such groundbreaking things (for its time) as gender roles and relationships — including female repression — while also being very focused on Lucy’s own psychology.
Though not as well-known, it is certainly an excellent novel to read if you’re looking for something similar to Jane Eyre.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë
No list of books like Jane Eyre would be complete without including some titles written by other Brontë sisters, including my personal favourite (and most underrated), Anne Brontë’s 1848 novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
This epistolary novel is considered to be one of the first feminist novels to be published and was quite scandalous for its time. Certainly more political than any of the other novels written by the Brontë sisters, Anne’s sister Charlotte actively blocked Wildfell Hall’s republication after Anne’s death until 1853. The novel uncovers the story of a reclusive widow, Helen Graham, who takes up residence in an abandoned mansion called Wildfell Hall with her son and a servant.
Throughout the novel, it is revealed that Helen has escaped her abusive and alcoholic husband, something that was unheard of during that time. Discussing, even in fictional prose, any sort of marital strife in upper-class Victorian England was considered to be incredibly taboo which is one of the reasons why Wildfell Hall was such a controversial novel.
If you want to read more about the social structures of Victorian society and want to really take a deep dive into early feminist literature, then make sure to add Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to your reading list.
Agnes Grey, by Anne Brontë
Anne Brontë’s first book published in 1847, Agnes Grey, A Novel is a great choice if you’re looking for books like Jane Eyre, as they follow incredibly similar themes.
This bildungsroman follows the eponymous protagonist, Agnes Grey, as she strives to prove herself as an adult and support her financially struggling family by finding work as a governess. Much like in Jane Eyre and in Anne Brontë’s other works, the novel follows certain feminist themes like a woman’s role in the workplace and the deconstructs the social class system in Victorian England.
Believed to be semi-autobiographical, Agnes Grey also brings to attention the precarious nature of being a governess in mid 19th century Britain. Though not as highly acclaimed as other Brontë works (by Anne, Charlotte, or Emily), Agnes Grey is still incredibly poignant, compelling, and well-written and is really something worth reading if you enjoyed Jane Eyre.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
Absolutely no list of books like Jane Eyre would be complete without including the other most famous novel from the Brontë sisters, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights was Brontë’s only novel and it follows many of the same plot points and themes as the works of her sisters. Most notably, it actively challenges the Victorian ideals of gender inequality, social class systems, and religious hypocrisy and morality.
The novel centres on Heathcliff who, at the beginning of the novel, is the ageing landlord of the Yorkshire estate Wuthering Heights. The novel then uncovers his life and childhood, including his relationships and trials and tribulations. Considered to be both a feminist novel and an epically romantic one, Wuthering Heights conjures much of the same imagery as you will find in Jane Eyre and it is a must-read for fans of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous work.
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
Though only posthumously published in 1817, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey was the first that she ever wrote (it was completed in 1803) and is a great option for those who are looking for some novels like Jane Eyre.
The novel, which was written as a satire of the gothic novel that was wildly popular at the time, follows seventeen-year-old protagonist Catherine Morland. Catherine is the daughter of a country clergyman and grew up a tomboy, but as she grows she has become quite pretty and eligible. The novel sees her being invited by wealthier friends to come to the nearby city of Bath to participate in the “coming out” season amongst higher class British society.
Though predating Brontë’s work bt nearly 50 years, there are certain elements that both novels retain, especially when it comes to the critique of the British social class system. If you are a Jane Austen fan or are simply looking for a romantic and historic novel that is similar to Jane Eyre, the Northanger Abbey is an excellent choice.
Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
Both haunting and romantic, Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 Gothic novel Rebecca is a truly fantastic option for readers looking for books like Jane Eyre.
This novel, told in the first person, follows an unnamed protagonist who is the second wife of a wealthy English man called Maxim de Winter. The novel centres upon her time, directly after her marriage, that she spent at Maxim’s estate in Cornwall called Manderly. Manderly is haunted by the memory of de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca, and the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, seems unduly devoted to the late first Mrs de Winter.
Throughout the novel, the narrator is continually psychologically undermined and gaslighted by the scheming Mrs Danvers. The psychological aspect and the effect on the narrator’s mental health is believed to be inspired by Jane Eyre making this haunting novel a wonderful read for fans of that novel.
Rebecca was also adapted into a film in 1940 by none other than Alfred Hitchcock starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. As of 2018, it is also being adapted for another feature film by Netflix.
Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
If you are looking for books like Jane Eyre because you love reading early feminist literature, then your reading list is not complete without including Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.
Published in 1925, this stream-of-consciousness novel follows a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged high-class English woman as she prepares for a party. Though they are written in glaringly different styles, it shares many of the same themes as Jane Eyre including a critique of the British social class system, traditional roles for women, and even the treatment of mental health.
All in all, if you want to read another of the feminist greats similar to Jane Eyre, then make sure to add Mrs Dalloway to your list.
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
While the previous additions on this list of books like Jane Eyre were written with adults as their intended audience, there are some books that are similar to Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece that were written for children. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess is one such novel.
Published in 1905, A Little Princess is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale the follows seven-year-old Sara Crewe, the daughter of a wealthy English Army Captain who is serving in British India. As was common during that time, Sara is sent to a boarding school in England, where she soon meets many other students who are drawn to her kind nature and imaginative storytelling.
After the death of Sara’s father, however, she is forced to move from her comfortable living quarters to earn her room and board as a servant at the school. For several years, she is repeatedly abused by the other servants (excluding her roommate Becky) and by Mrs Minchin, the owner of the school. To get past this, she spins imaginative worlds in which to escape from.
A Little Princess is believed to be loosely based off of an unpublished work of Charlotte Brontë’s and is still considered to be a beloved work of children’s literature today. The novel is reminiscent of the beginning parts of Jane Eyre and it truly is a wonderful choice if you’re searching for similar titles.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Hopping over to the other side of the Atlantic for the next book in this list of novels similar to Jane Eyre, Louisa May Alcott’s seminal 1868 novel Little Women is an excellent choice for those looking for books like Charlotte Brontë’s famous work.
The novel follows the March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — as they come of age and navigate life during and after the American Civil War. Considered to be one of the first works of American feminist literature, the novel begins with the March family in their Massachusetts home during the Civil War. They are an abolitionist family that rejects societal norms of the time (such as wearing corsets) and it is implied that this is why the family doesn’t have the social standing that it could.
The book is told from the perspective of the four sisters, but the main protagonist is tomboyish and wild Jo, an aspiring writer. Much like in Jane Eyre the novel does examine many feminist themes, especially that of a woman’s role in society. It has also been adapted into a number of feature films — most notably in 1994 starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, and Christian Bale. It is also being adapted for a film due to be released in 2019 starring Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson.
Anne of Green Gables, by LM Montgomery
Another classic novel from the other side of the Atlantic, if you’re looking for a fantastic coming-of-age tale similar to Jane Eyre, then you cannot go wrong with LM Montgomery’s seminal novel Anne of Green Gables.
This 1908 novel follows the titular character Anne Shirley, an imaginative and accident-prone red-headed orphan after she is adopted by siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert and is sent to live at their homestead of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Though Matthew and Marilla initially wanted to adopt a boy in order to help them with labour on their farm, they are eventually charmed by Anne and allow her to stay at Green Gables.
Much like Jane Eyre, this is a great coming of age novel about a spirited and intelligent orphan that also has more modern ideals than the society that she lives in. Though not Gothic in nature, Anne of Green Gables is still an excellent addition to anyone’s reading list if they enjoyed Jane Eyre.
Finding books like Jane Eyre isn’t a hard task if you know where to look. There are a myriad of fantastic novels examining similar themes to the Brontë book that are very much worth reading.
Are you looking for books like Jane Eyre? Do you have any that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!