Thornfield Revisited: Jane Eyre Retellings

Thanks to JCPL Adult Services Librarian Lisa Krekelberg for sharing her review of Jane Eyre retellings!

No one creates a gothic mood quite like Charlotte Brontë, such as in this scene from her classic novel Jane Eyre: “Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.” In the scene, ten-year-old Jane has been locked in the room where her uncle died as a cruel punishment by her Aunt Sarah. Uncle Reed’s ghost is not the only spectral figure in Jane Eyre, a book which endures as a classic (and one of my own personal favorites) since its original publication in 1847. So, it’s appropriate that one of the latest works inspired by Brontë, the young adult novel My Plain Jane, plays on Jane Eyre’s legacy as a ghost story.

In My Plain Jane, written by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton, Charlotte Brontë is herself a character and is friends with Jane Eyre. Jane has a unique gift: She can talk with ghosts! Jane’s incorporeal friend Helen Burns provides the humor in this book, which also includes a ghost-hunting royal society, a search for vengeance, and murder most foul.

My Plain Jane is only one of many Jane Eyre retellings. For example, if you like your fiction dark and bloody, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele could be the recreation for you. This well-written and imaginative work is certainly not for the faint of heart. Like the heroine in the original tale, Jane Steele is an orphan with a Dickensian childhood tinged with cruelty and neglect. However, unlike the original Jane Eyre, this leading lady has no problem exacting swift and final justice on those she deems deserving.

For a lighter read, try Jasper Fforde’s delightfully clever The Eyre Affair, the first book in his Thursday Next series. The series features a parallel universe in which the Crimean War rages on and books are taken so seriously that there are special operatives working as Literary Detectives.

Brontë’s Jane Eyre has inspired these and many more writers in the 170 years since its publication, including works that are now classics in their own right, like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. You can find all these titles and others in our library, and through our digital collection, R.E.A.D.S. Drop in to the library, search the catalog on our website, or call 423-434-4454 for more information about our collections!

Related Post