Yes, I did succumb to reading yet another classic book retelling, this one of Jane Eyre. And yes, I regret everything.
So, this book has been on my TBR probably since I kept keeping a TBR notebook. As indicated by my last week’s review of a Les Mis retelling, I am obsessed with reiterations of some of my favorite stories. I think they can be an interesting way to see a different side of your favorite books/fairytales, whether because its set in the modern age (like this one) or from a different perspective. I especially love when an author does a darker twist on a fairytale.
Saying that, I went into this book knowing nothing about it outside the fact that it is a Jane Eyre retelling. For those who don’t know, I have loved Jane Eyre since I was a teenager. Outside of a few romances like Pride and Prejudice and North and South, this one is my favorite romances of all time. Keeping that in mind, I did try to go into this book with my expectations pretty low, because I didn’t want to be too disappointed. Spoiler alert: I was still disappointed.
Release: September, 2010
Synopsis: After dropping out of college for financial reasons, Jane Moore takes a job as a nanny at Thornton Park, a mansion owned by Nico Rathburn, a rock star about to make his comeback. But as she learns more about the house and its strange sounds and grows closer to Nico himself, she sees that dark secrets might destroy her new-found happiness.
Spoiler Review (though do you even need a spoiler disclaimer, since most people know the story anyway?)
If I had been reviewing this book before the halfway mark, I would have easily given it at least four stars. I really liked the introduction of the characters, even if they are a bit different from the original classic. I liked the themes of drug abuse, morality, and the examination of how toxic being a rock star can be. I liked Jane: she is passionate and kind. She definitely is not as traumatized by her past as her classic counterpart, but she still felt understandable. In fact, I liked most things about the book until I hit the halfway mark, and then it all went downhill and honestly none of the characters motivations made sense. Let me explain.
In the original book, there is this beautiful scene after Jane finds out about Rochester’s wife. He begs her not to leave him, saying he can keep her there by force. But then he says, “Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it–the savage, beautiful creature.” In one of the movies, his line is something like “It is your soul I want.” The point is that he loved her not for her body or looks, but for her personality. He knew he was doing wrong in marrying her, and yet he knew this one important to her because she valued virtue.
So now we get to the scene that changed everything in this new retelling: they sleep together. No, I’m not a prude and I think if adults want to sleep together, they have free will to do so. However, it does drastically change the reasoning of both Nico and Jane’s characters. That value of virtue from the original is gone. Nico and Jane could easily go on sleeping together and never marry. Jane seems fine with this and it is Nico who proposes. In the original, Edward Rochester knows the only way to have Jane is to marry her, and thus he is willing to even commit bigamy. Nico has no such motivation.
Besides that, divorce is common nowadays. During the time of Charlotte Bronte, people rarely got divorced, so Edward keeping his insane wife, especially knowing how horrible mental institutions were at the time, is reasonable. In the modern day, Nico has no reason to not annul the marriage. When Jane asks him why he didn’t, he gives the stupidest response that he didn’t want her in a mental institution and he didn’t want the media catching hold of the story. First, mental institutions are much better nowadays, and are more similar to a hospital than the macabre institutions we think of when the word “asylum” is mentioned. Also, his entire life has been leaked to the press, so why try to keep one thing private? He even says to Jane that he is used to the world knowing everything about him. It makes no sense.
Saying that, I could understand it more if he was a less…irrational individual. If he had truly changed his life and become responsible. Even then, he could have easily divorced her after he met Jane but still took care of her. It just doesn’t make sense.
Also, Jane’s reaction to finding out about Nico’s wife also seems irrational. This is the same woman who throughout the entire book knew he was a womanizer, recovering drug addict, and extremely selfish individual. In the original, being married was such a bigger deal. But know, Nico could easily get a divorce, so the only reason Jane should be mad is because he lied to her, which doesn’t make sense with her previous behavior.
I find when it comes to stories, no matter how interesting the plot and descriptions are, if the characters’ motivations make no sense, then the book falls apart. And that is exactly how this book felt to me.
The problem with retelling this plot in the modern age is that some changes have to be made, and if you aren’t careful, the plot won’t make any sense with the new changes. If you are curious to see a modern retelling of Jane Eyre done well, I recommend “The Autobiography of Jane Eyre” which is a web series on Youtube which does a really good job in sticking to the original feel of the classic novel but also making it set in the modern day.
Have you read any good retellings of Jane Eyre? How does this book sound to you? Do you agree with me, or do you have different ideas? I’ve love to know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,