Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jane Eyre Nightmare: WWRW

Did I just dream all that or did I just read two contemporary takes on Jane Eyre that completely sucked all the metaphorical oxygen out of the literary air that is my "me time" and left me croaking an insane maniacal sob a la Bertha Mason?

No, that was no nightmare. Peter listened to an audio version of Jane Eyre for his summer reading and although I've read it several times I couldn't help but stop sweeping up the endless sand that is our home and listen in to the good parts. Which got me feeling all nostalgic, so while browsing through Kindle titles I happened upon these two and hit purchase:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I couldn't say it better myself, so stolen from the Amazon page of this title:

Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde's Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream.

My first taste of what is called "alternate history," this Britain of 1985 is far different from our own. The major historical difference being that the Crimean War which in our world lasted from 1853-1856, is still very much in full swing. Thursday Next (yes, that is her name) is a veteran of that war and is sorting out her war memories and love life as she works as a Literary Detective. Meaning she is part of an enormous government run program that that investigates all sorts of crimes against literature. The excitement comes when one of the many wacky inventions available at that time, a device capable of slinging real humans into the actual world of works of literature, gets into the wrong hands. The bad guy, named Acheron Hades (how would we know HE was a bad guy???) enters Jane Eyre and threatens to alter the course of the novel if his demands are not met. It's Thursday's job to stop him, but does she?

I give this book props for the excellent writing, the clever story line, the peppering of literary references and debates, and the respect with which it treated Charlotte Bronte's great work. 

Unfortunately, I didn't actually like it. This is the first of a series for Jasper Fforde, following Thursday Next on what I assume are her many literary adventures. But there were far too many silly names (Braxton Hicks! NO!) mythical creatures like vampires and werewolves, endless gadgets, car chases, time travel, on and on, to be of interest to me. Just not my cup of tea. It honestly was like reading a grown up version of Artemis Fowl, although Thursday is not quite as repulsive a character as he. 

So I will think none the less of you if you read and enjoy this book, probably more fun if you are a more fun person, and most importantly, it won't ruin Jane Eyre for you.  

On the other hand...

Jane by April Lindner is horrible from top to bottom. And that is all my review really has to say. 

Okay, I'll go on.

Author April Lindner teaches literature at the university level  and Jane Eyre has always been a favorite of hers to read and to teach. So I just can't understand why she would choose to massacre it in this way. Her story, Jane, is a modern day retelling, nearly detail to detail of Jane Eyre. Only without all the beautiful and engaging prose, the ability to win over centuries of readers with her character portrayals, or absolutely any insight into human existence.

Lindner's Jane loses her parents (who never loved or cared for her anyway) to a car accident during college, is cheated out of an inheritance by her evil siblings, and is forced to leave school and work as a nanny to support herself, where of course she meets her Mr. Rochester blah blah blah. 

What Lindner failed to realize is that the reader falls in absolute love and sympathy and emotional investment with dear Jane Eyre throughout her unfortunate childhood as she retains and develops a brilliantly soft, engaging personality that always wins over good people in her path. By the time she reaches adulthood, we sympathize with and love her, caring what happens to her. Lindner somehow used all her creative literary skill to make her Jane completely devoid of absolutely any traces of personality or ability to evoke emotion in the reader. Really. Her childhood was horrible because her middle class parents didn't find her interesting enough and ignored her. Her siblings were natural born jerks who treated her badly for no reason. Jane herself picked up no friends or adults willing to take her under their wings along the way, and at college managed to make a total of one friend whose name I don't even remember being mentioned. Why did no one like her? From what I can tell, probably because she is the most one dimensional character ever to walk the pages of a published work.

Read not this book. 



  1. I think I'm going to look for The Eyre Affair at my local library - it's okay if you judge :)

  2. Well, I don't suppose I'll be running out to read that Jane book. LOL That was a really fun review to read. And, I love P.G. Wodehouse so I'll have to check outl The Eyre Affair.

  3. Why do people insist on ruining classics!? Jane Eyre is one of my absolute favorite books. Ever. On earth. forever. Just reading the descriptions of these books (especially the 2nd) is enough to make me crazy. You are so right about Jane's childhood adhering us to her fate.

  4. I love Jane Eyre, love it so much. I am glad you warned me away from the 2nd because sometimes it is fun to read those modern retells. I am such a P.G. Wodehouse fan that I will be checking out The Eyre Affair, thanks for that review and your honesty about what you liked and didn't, I'm intrigued!

  5. I didn't read Jane Eyre in high school when I was supposed to. I think I MAY have picked up a copy of Cliffs Notes before the essay, and that's about it. Is that the one with the crazy lady chained in the attic? I don't even know. Why would he keep a woman in the attic? Or am I thinking about that other one I haven't finished yet? Wuthering Heights? Is that the one with the violent psychopath wandering the moors? I don't know. For an English major at a well respected Big 10 University, my knowledge of classic literature is shameful. I blame the state of liberal education today, which saw that I read things like "The Buddha of Suburbia" but not "Moby Dick".


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