|Publication year: 2012
Genre: Young Adult
Time and place: 2012 US/the pages of Jane Eyre
Narrated in: first-person
First sentence: “There was no possibility of taking a swim that day.”
Verdict: Hated it with a passion.
Emma’s life is going less than well. She and her step mother have nothing in common, the rich girls at the boarding school where she has a scholarship treat her bad, she has a crush on not one, but two unavailable guys…
A lighting strike relieves her of all her cares though, as she finds herself transported right between the pages of the book she was currently reading, Jane Eyre. Mrs. Fairfax and Adele think Emma is Jane, and after a while she herself starts believing it and even falls in love with Mr. Rochester. Her real life is calling, however, and…
Jane Eyre is my favorite book. I love the language, I love the story, and most of all I love the characters. Which is why this book annoyed me so: it managed to get both Jane and Edward wrong, painting the latter in such a bad light it left me shaking my head in disbelief. The least thing I expect from a ‘reteller’ is to be acquainted with the original story; this one certainly wasn’t.
Dear author, in case you ever read this,
Rochester had married Bertha because he was young, and she was beautiful, and he thought himself in love. Yes, his father had arranged this marriage because the bride was rich, but Edward was not told about the money part. After the wedding she has shown her true colors (“a nature the most gross, impure, depraved“) and life with her was hell; Edward even thought of a divorce, but he couldn’t since by this time the doctors (yes, author, he did consult doctors) have discovered that she was turning mad. Mad as her mother and her younger brother — because you see, author, madness ran in her family. Little by little the fact that he was now hopelessly tied to a lunatic drove Rochester to despair; he even wanted to kill himself. Only the idea of shutting her up in the attic (well cared for, as he couldn’t bring himself to harm her in the littlest way), while he could pose as an unattached man saved his life. And it is only at this stage (with her already mad for quite a while) that she brought her to Thornfield — there is no plausible way to think that the imprisonment was the cause of her insanity. Edward is not a perfect man, far from it, but he is not the monster that you make him seem.
As for Jane, you seem to think that she left Edward because she could not forgive him for what he’s done. But she loves him and she understands him, and I see her above such petty things as being unable to forgive. She loves him dearly and she fears that he will harm himself after she’s gone — and yet she does go, because she cannot abide to live with him and not be his bride. Such were the morals of the age, such were her principles, and she preferred tearing her heart out to breaking them (“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?“). This choice that Jane has made is one of the reasons I respect her the most, and you, author, have torn it away from her without a thought.
You know, I think this book would have been many times better if there had been no connection with Jane Eyre. Standing on its own it might have been a cute story (perhaps with a few hidden parallels, like Gray trying to make Emma jealous, or her being able to feel when he was in danger, or whatever). As it is, there are quite a few problems with it that did not let me properly enjoy it even in the few moments when I could get over the part where Rochester was turned into a monster. Not to mention that I didn’t very well get what was the purpose of Emma’s foray into the pages of Jane Eyre: show spoiler
- Emma must be both quite unlucky and indestructible, as she is very near to dying no less than four times in the course of a few months. And after each of these adventures she ends up good as new in the space of a few weeks;
- She was also sort of too silly for my taste (I lost all the respect I had for her when she at one time says about her teacher, “How dare he condescend to me just because he was older and had seen more of the world?“, when the guy was giving her some advice — I get that she is supposed to be a teenager, and that is the way most teens think, but I really cannot admire a silly child);
- I think it’s very, very hard to do Jane Eyre justice in a YA book. The original is a piece of beautiful literature, and simplifying it means letting go of the very things that made it special. This book is no exception, it felt at times like a child’s attempt to make a copy of Gioconda.
- The most important challenge for the author I thought was the fact that Emma had to both know about the book and still be in the dark about what is to happen. At first this was quite well approached, as when Emma enters the book she has only read a part of it, not all (she has read long enough to know how things end up between her and Rochester, but no more). As Emma loses touch with her own reality and her non-Jane life, this could still have worked. She falls in love with R., she is heart broken when she sees Blanche, that sort of thing. Up to now, it all was believable enough. But then Emma goes back to her life and manages to finish the book. Not only that but when she returns between the pages she now has her full memories — when R. asks her where she has been she remembers that in the book Jane has been away to visit her sick aunt. A mere moment after that she gets upset that R. still plans to marry Blanche — so she remembered a tiny detail of the book but didn’t remember that a central theme is R.’s love for Jane and no other?
- Another challenge I think was the part where Gray — Emma’s love interest — had to have a terrifying secret of his own, to mirror Rochester’s. As in the previous case, I thought the author was very close to finding just the thing, but unfortunately she didn’t; I thought her choice was veering a bit towards the ridiculous as I couldn’t help thinking that no one in their right mind could actually blame Gray for what happened, and as such the secret lacked the strength it needed to make it count.
- in the sequel Emma will get into the pages of The Scarlett Letter, and I am almost considering picking it up because, while I absolutely love Jane Eyre and was personally offended by the changes made to it, about Scarlet Letter I could not care less. Sadly, the third book will have Emma into The Phantom of the Opera, which is also one of the books I love.
Thoughts on the title
Loved it + it’s the reason I picked up the book.
Thoughts on the ending
Happy ending, yay. Although considering I didn’t care too much about Emma it was no big deal.
Also, in my opinion the whole bit about the feminist essay about Bertha would not have been missed at all if it weren’t there.
Recommend it to?
YA lovers who wouldn’t mind having Jane Eyre butchered in front of their eyes.