About 2 months ago I reviewed the novel “Jane” (by April Linder) which (somewhat smartly) re-vamped the Bronte classic “Jane Eyre.” Since then, I have been emailed 22 times with authors offering up their modern day versions of classic literature. Some, I politely declined, knowing that my passionate love for the original would hinder my ability to judge it fairly, others, like “Sloane Hall” (by Libby Sternberg) I happy excepted. Now, as you may have already guessed, “Sloane Hall” much like “Jane” is a modern day (or as modern as 1920 gets ya) twist on the wonderfully compelling and undeniably heart-wrenching story of “Jane Eyre.” (Which… for the record, if you have yet to read I encourage you to do so, it is a classic for a reason.)
The 1920’s are a time of change; silent films are being phased out, alcohol is prohibited, and Hollywood is the place where dreams are made. No one knows this better than John Doyle. After being ceremoniously let go (due to a mistake on set,) John is forced to find new employment. But no worries, John has friends, friends who happen to know of a woman looking for a new driver, not just ANY woman though, Pauline Sloane, silent film star and raging alcoholic. After weeks of peace (in a Pauline absent home,) John is finally, (and very unconventionally) introduced to the matron of the house, and that’s when his life changes. Suddenly finding himself in awe of the woman in front of him…John, (despite his better judgment) falls in love, but…does Pauline, a woman used to getting her way by throwing tantrums and mocking those around her, feel the same? What happens when Pauline finally goes one step too far, will she loose the only man that has ever been truly loyal to her? Will John’s past reemerge to haunt him in his darkest hours, and when the truth is finally revealed…will it be to late to repair the damage that has already been done?
I REALLY wanted to like this book. Honestly, I did, but the more I read, the more I felt completely detached from what was going on. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s because you already know how it ends…duh” but I assure you that’s not the case. No, this time…it had nothing to do with poor characterization (or even dialogue for that matter) and everything to do with plot catches. What’s a “plot catch?” Well… it’s where the story hits a net and lingers for much longer than it should. In the case of “Sloane Hall,” it was when Sternberg (for who knows what reason) felt the need to drift away from the intensity of a tumultuous relationship to make a call to a friend on set, (or pay a visit, or write a letter…etc) While under normal circumstances I would relish the idea of lessons in cinematography, in this particular story it pulled the focus away from what was important and (in my cause) caused me to lose interest. Now, with all of the above negativity, it IS important for me to stress that the book was not a total loss, and in certain places I did find myself enjoying the words laid out in front of me. Like I said before, Sternberg’s characters (which by the way were role reversed in this version) were actually quite wonderful in portraying the destitution and heartache needed to properly convey Bronte’s story, and the final 30% was actually good, (I’m thinking this is because she stopped focusing on the abstract.) It’s just to bad that the (necessary) smoothness in Sternberg’s writing waited until the end to show its pretty face.
All in all…not the best rewrite I have read, but there’s no denying it had some weight behind it. Eyre fans are sure to find some hidden pleasure behind it, but for all of you “none-classic-y” types, this is probably not going to be your thing.
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: everyone has a past, it’s what they are making of their future that REALLY counts.