Saturday, January 2, 2010
Jane Eyre's Daughter by Elizabeth Newark
From the publisher:
"In this sequel to Jane Eyre, young Janet Rochester is consigned to Highcrest Manor and the guardianship of the strict Colonel Dent while her parents journey to the West Indies. As Janet struggles to make a life for herself, guided by the ideals of her parents, she finds herself caught up in the mysteries of Highcrest.
Why is the East Wing forbidden to her? What lies behind locked gates? And what is the source of the voices she hears in the night? Can she trust the enigmatic Roderick Landless, or should she transfer her allegiance to the suave and charming Sir Hugo Calendar?
Whether riding her mare on the Yorkshire moors, holding her own with Colonel Dent, or waltzing at her first ball, Janet is strong, sympathetic, and courageous.
After all, she is her mother's daughter......"
Before I sum up my impressions of Jane Eyre's Daughter, I think I first need to say that I am wary of fan fiction and classic spin-offs -- particularly when they are from novels that are very close to my heart. I read a few Austen-inspired books for the Everything Austen Challenge and quickly learned that not all spin-offs are created equal. Some are fantastic and spark renewed interest in classic novels; others are mediocre. Only a few are truly worthy of association with the original. Charlotte Bronte's gothic masterpiece, Jane Eyre, is sacrosanct in my opinion, so I approached this "sequel" with a very critical eye, ready to dismiss anything that did not ring true to the Bronte original.
Reader, I was very impressed!
This is a thoroughly engaging tale narrated by the daughter born to Jane Eyre and her beloved Mr. Rochester. (Although a daughter is not mentioned, to my knowledge, in the original, Jane refers to their son as their "first-born," so it is plausible that they had other children.) Filled with many familiar elements that made Bronte's original gothic tale so intriguing, you'll revisit the bleak and wind-wept Yorkshire moors and a restored Thornfield, meet a Byronic figure whose striking resemblance to Mr. Rochester stirs up vicious gossip, and watch in fascination as a spirited Janet comes to blows with Isabella, the beautiful and haughty niece of Blanche Ingram. There's even Pilot, bred from generations of Rochester's original dog, ever-present, resting by the fire, always loyal and devoted.
I found the journey of Janet Eyre from girlhood to womanhood to be poignant and believable, with one exception. She is very honest with her feelings in the beginning of the tale, feeling much loved and doted on by her larger than life father, but feels slighted by her more reserved mother. (I do take issue with the way Jane Eyre is portrayed in the beginning of this book, being a bit cold to her daughter, but attentive to her husband and son. Not in true character, in my opinion, but it is resolved satisfactorily.) Frightened by the news that she must attend a girls' school in London when her parents and brother must leave to attend to matters related to Bertha Mason's family in Jamaica, she feels lost without the comfort and support of her father. It is at this school where Janet begins to learn indepedence and self-confidence.
Upon completion of the girls' school, Janet must, according to her father's guardianship plan, live with Colonel Dent at Highcrest Manor. Like Thornfield, Highcrest Manor has its own secrets and tragic past that comes back to haunt the inhabitants. Two enigmatic gentlemen enter Janet's life, and as the plot unfolds, we learn which one is friend or foe.
The writing is excellent and moves along quickly, with lots of suspenseful twists, wonderful period details, and an ending that left me with happy tears. Keep in mind that it's not perfect, it does have a few spots that readers won't like or agree with, but generally an enjoyable read.
Recommended if you're a Bronte devotee. I'm off to a good beginning for the All About the Brontes Challenge!
Title: Jane Eyre's Daughter
Author: Elizabeth Newark
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
genre: historical fiction/romance