I’m truly sorry, but I must say this: If you love Jane Eyre
as much as I do, do not read this book. I can honestly say that had I not read Jane Eyre
before reading this, this book would have destroyed Brontë’s novel for me—this coming from a girl who’s known the story of Jane Eyre
since she was four years old (from watching the Timothy Dalton and Orson Welles film adaptations, finally reading it for the first time at age eleven), and has been in love with it ever since. After finishing Lindner’s rendition, I was left feeling utterly betrayed and depressed.
Lindner literally takes Brontë’s novel and paraphrases it. The only differences in the two books is the modern day setting in Connecticut/Manhattan, some of the names of the characters, the lack of focus on Jane’s childhood schooling, the romance between a rock star and his daughter’s nanny and some minor details regarding St. John Rivers’ future plans (here named River St. John, though his sisters retain the ordinary names of Diana and Maria *
). The rest is exactly the same—the same order, the same conflicts, etc. While the madwoman in the attic story works in a 19th century setting, it just doesn’t cut it here in the modern day.
When I first saw Lindner’s novel, I was intrigued to discover how a modern author would take some of the themes addressed in Brontë’s work and put a fresh spin on it—a variation that while having the essence of Jane Eyre
, offered something entirely new. A good example of what I’m trying to describe is Robin McKinley’s versions of the Beauty and the Beast tale. (You can even say that at its core, Jane Eyre
is also essentially a variation of this tale as well, in terms of the characterization.) McKinley offers three versions of Beauty and the Beast—Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, Rose Daughter and Sunshine. While keeping the basic essentials of the fairytale, the dramatic changes to the story and plot in each version make it feel like you’re reading a completely different novel each time. Each story is a further digression away from the original fairytale, but that basic essence still colors the stories. That’s what I was looking for, but it was certainly not what I got.
You’d think that since Lindner is copying her story directly from Brontë’s novel, she couldn’t go wrong. But her paraphrasing cuts the soul out of the dialogues amongst the characters. For me, the language of Brontë’s novel builds the characters… their interactions and that witty banter helped me fall in love with Jane and Rochester and helped me understand how that initial spark developed into a burgeoning romance. Consider Rochester’s profession of his feelings, I think it goes something like this: “I have a queer feeling with regard to you, especially when you are near me, as now. It’s as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if a distance came between us, I’m afraid that chord of communion will be snapped, and I’ve a nervous notion that I should take to bleeding inwardly.” Compare that beautiful passage to this: “Right. Even as I was giving you shit and you were standing up to me in that quiet, stubborn way you have, I had this feeling about you…that we were, you know… kindred spirits.” I felt like Lindner stabbed me with a penknife and twisted it in my heart. All of my favorite sections… every interaction between Jane and Rochester/Nico Rathburn have been reduced to this. There’s absolutely no chemistry between these two characters; and I couldn’t see how Jane’s affection for her employer developed into a “passionate love.” To me, it seems more like the shallow lustful yearnings of a groupie for her music idol; and on his side, a thirty-something year old man trying to recapture his youth by seducing a nineteen year old girl. Yuck!
Even though Nico doesn’t seem to be very articulate in his speech, I at least expected to be able to read some of his music lyrics—especially the lyrics of the song he wrote for Jane, as a means to get some understanding as to why she fell in love with him. But we don’t even get that—at the most there is one line, which isn’t enough to give any kind of information—since Lindner’s main focus is trying to cram in all the essential plot points from the original novel she’s copying. Yet while she does this, she leaves some of the plot points unfinished, namely the points that resulted from the “major” digressions she made from Brontë’s novel. Completely disheartening.