I had a small Jane Eyre geek-out a few weeks ago. That is, reading books related to Jane Eyre, not the actual book since I reread that 3 times last year already. (I have to admit though, I am tempted, especially after finally watching the movie adaptation). It was fun mostly, not completely satisfying, but how can an adaptation or book-inspired novel really ever fit the expectations of the original?
“What if Jane Eyre fell in love with a rock star?” is really all the explanation you will need. Jane is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre: Jane as nanny to the daughter of rock star Nice Rathburn who lives at Thornfield Park. However horrible it may sound to purist Brontë fans, the retelling is really very cleverly done, written in modern language Lindner* manages to update the story to modern times pretty well. She does cut out some of the more controversial scenes in the novel and I really don’t know how convincing the storyline of having to keep the wife in the attic is in the twenty-first century. Furthermore, I wonder why Lindner chose to set the story in the US rather than England? And clearly Lindner’s associations with the word rock star are very different from mine. Apparently Bruce Springsteen inspired her, but I kept thinking Bon Jovi or other too polished rock. Eek. No, not my kind of rock star at all, but the story works well enough for what it aims to be. I do not know how I feel about her taking on Wuthering Heights next, I think it may have been better to stick to one book instead of turning it into what I am afraid will be a formula.
Meh. It is really all I can say to this fictional biography of Charlotte Brontë. Becoming Jane Eyre* it is called, but it moves well past Charlotte writing that novel. Yet, it was the part of the novel that described her writing Jane Eyre that annoyed me most. It was almost as if Kohler could not settle on what she wanted this book to be, or on how to portray Charlotte in it. I could go on a tangent about the apparent need to draw parallels between author’s lives and their works of fiction, the need to have women writers have one passionate love affair before they can truly comprehend the world enough to write a novel, but maybe this frustration was influenced by recently re-watching Becoming Jane (about Austen). What bothered me about Becoming Jane Eyre was the gap between the reader and the character in the novel. It was as if I was never allowed to identify with Charlotte Brontë, not even really know her. I assume this was a conscious decision, because it’s there in the way the book was written. It is ‘she’, ‘she’, ‘she’ all over the place: as in she does, she feels, she longs, she writes. Is this describing instead of showing? I do not know, but I do know I got tired of reading ‘she’ every two sentences. And then there is the passion that is no passion, as Sasha wrote about before. Perhaps because the reader is not allowed to identify with Charlotte? Perhaps because the prose reads clunky when it tries to convey feeling? I can turn open the book at any passage in the first 100 pages to show you this. Take:
How she had trudged through the damp streets of Brussels, half-crazed with longing, lust, and jealousy, reluctant to return to the school. She lingered there in the dark and the rain to escape black thoughts. She walked to forget her Master and beloved friend who had replaced her father and her brother – her black swan, the first to discover her talent and encourage her art. How she has waited for his letters!
Charlotte’s perspective is not the only one covered in the book. Many characters are featured, for example the nurse of Charlotte’s father when he is operated on his eyes. And later on, Emily and Anne. Somehow, the book improves when Charlotte’s sisters enter the scenes. They take the story to a new level, allow more sympathy, allow a more direct glimpse in their lives. Their role is short, but it is what momentarily improves the experience. It is where the book started to remind me a little, a very very little, of The Taste of Sorrow. I tell you, if you want a fictionalised account of the lives of the Brontës, of Charlotte Brontë even, go look for Jude Morgan’s book.
So. Much Fun. Everyone has read The Eyre Affair*. It looks like everyone enjoyed it. Most even seem to love it. I did not love it, but I did enjoy it a lot. It was the perfect light read at a time when my world was too busy to make much sense of anything. Thursday Next, an agent who works for a bureau that tries to solve crimes, crimes of literature. In an alternate universe, the world takes literature so seriously that criminals start kidnapping fictional characters. I know, I know. Fun. And silly, but in a good way, I think. Not the most Jane Eyre related book, but in a way it was (trying to avoid spoilers here). I enjoyed reading about this world where literature is taken so seriously that it becomes almost scary. People who believe Marlowe or some other author has written Shakespeare’s plays knocking on your door, to convince you of their point of view, like Jehovah’s witnesses. Etcetera. It can border on the ” *sigh* now don’t be ridiculous!” – reading experience, but it never crosses the line into that world of annoyance. I am looking forward to reading the next installment in the series, although I do not think I will go out of my way to get my hands on a copy.
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