Dutton makes it her own not through mimicry but through omission. By straining out the Victorian niceties and putting the words, retold, into Eyre’s mouth makes the visceral body immediate, and love seems to have put the characters, if not their ribs, at risk for a pain different than that for which they are destined. When the separation comes sentences rather than chapters later, the effect is complete and devastating.
Dutton also takes up the pen of authors like Alice James and Virginia Woolf who, surprisingly naturally, fall into a similar intellectual space as the fictional characters. Like the characters, Woolf and James felt the restrictions of their sex in unjust societies (and homes), but here Dutton gives them unbound reign over the page. “Virginia Woolf’s Appendix” is a passage of images which, of course, offers no explanation. “Alice James” is the story of the diarist as a young girl who ends with a knowing joke that “patience…gets me novelists for brothers.” It’s a witty portrait, but the implication is that Alice herself is denied that outcome, and, like Woolf, her growing madness is eventually what confines her.