One of my favorite things in life (my guilty pleasure, if you will) is classic literature. Austen, Woolf, Shelly, the Brontes; they all left such significant marks in the world of literature that they are difficult to ignore. They are also, the easiest to get caught up in. Whether it is the language you love, or the manners in which society behaved, classic novels give us, the “non-stop generation,” something to reflect on.
One of my least favorite things in life? Classic literature. Why? Because no matter how long you wait, there will never be a sequel to your favorite book.
This is my primary reason for indulging in so many modern day adaptations of the greats. My favorite book is “Pride and Prejudice.” But no matter how many times I read it (once a year for those of you wondering) I will never read it the same as I did the first time. Something will be significantly different in my life that causes me to see things differently in the story. I may skip notions that are obvious to some people, for a more obscure observation of my own. The simple truth is, classic literature can change as easily as the wind. And modern day adaptations offer up fresh outlooks of old points of view.
Jane Eyre is particularly susceptible for re-writes. Because of it’s Gothic roots and gut wrenching love story (that goes horribly awry) it is easy to twist into something new and fresh, without loosing the heart of it’s founding matron.
“A Breath of Eyre” by Eve Marie Mont is exactly that…a fresh look at something old.
“Emma Townsend has always believed in stories—the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it’s because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn’t come close to filling the void left by her mother’s death. And her only romantic prospect—apart from a crush on her English teacher—is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma’s confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre…
Reading of Jane’s isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane’s body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she’s never known—and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane’s story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own…”
Now for those of you that have read Jane Eyre, you will not be surprised to find out that this is a heavy read. Unlike most YA re-tellings that can be found on the market today (for example Pride & Popularity by Jenni James) Mont chose to stick with Bronte’s original format of “dark and brooding” rather than give it a happily chic and giddy facelift.
Bronte’s characters were tortured. They were wrought with pain and suffering whether from mental illness of degradation. Mont’s characters were much the same, though written in a much more modern tongue and clearer understanding of mental illness and where it comes from. That’s not to say that Mont’s characters were bogged down either. They had their light-hearted moments, as do all YA novels, but the influence in behaviors (that transversed between Emma’s realities) was heavily influenced by the story of Jane.
The story itself, (Jane Eyre references aside) was fascinating all on it’s own, and (if forced) could have very easily stood alone as a quality read. In the forefront of this novel Emma, and her romantic prospect Gray, are introduced to us as two very different people, from two very different worlds. Gray is a handsome (yet rowdy) boy of money who has the world on his shoulders. Emma; a scholarship student who’s introverted nature demands that she disappear rather than be noticed. But, as luck (or fate) would have it these two become so emotionally fused that they actually start to take on traits of the other, almost as if switching places. To watch this transformation along with the austereness that the Jane Eyre angle provides was simply astounding.
So would someone who isn’t a Bronte fan enjoy this book? I’m going to gamble and say yes, but like I said above it’s very important to understand the “roots” of the ORIGINAL story so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the dark shadows of racism, suicide, depression and death that reside in THIS version.
Overall, a wonderful modern take (that did indeed point out a few “new” trains of thought) on a classic that will tide me over until the next one comes along.
Buy it if you like Jane Eyre, avoid it if you prefer “happy literature.”
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: Brave souls allow EVERYONE to have a voice. Be brave!