The story of Jane Eyre brought in a contemporary setting :)
Jane Moore is nineteen when she has to drop out of college and find a job, as her parents have recently died and her older siblings are uninterested in her whereabouts. She ends up as the live-in nanny of Maddie, the daughter of an once famous rock star who’s planning a comeback. Her employer seems quite rough at first, but he is friendly, and, in time, a relationship develops between the two of them. In the light of his future word tour he even asks Jane to marry him, and she accepts. But…
First of all, kudos to the author for managing to bring the events from the 19th century world of Jane Eyre to present day US, in a believable manner. There are some elements that the author let go of, such as Jane’s inheriting a fortune, or her being related to the family that takes her in after she runs away, but I am glad she did so, as they would have made the book feel contrived. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the reason why (fewer pages perhaps? a simplified language?), but this book, while interesting enough, felt like it lacked some of the depth the original had. However, this isn’t to say I did not enjoy it :)
Although she’s only nineteen, Jane takes everything very seriously. The book starts a little before she gets the job as the nanny of Mr. Rathburn’s child, so her formative years are mostly skipped (we are treated now and then to her memories of her family, mostly her mother, and how little affection she’s had as she grew up). I liked this Jane, the way she always thought of Maddie’s well being (I don’t remember Jane Eyre being that devoted to her charge, although she may have been and I may have forgotten it). Most of all I liked the way she always told the truth, and the way she tried to avoid saying bad things of people if she could avoid it.
Nico however got the short end of the stick: he’s supposed to be this reserved character, who does not talk all that much, which makes him hard to get to know. Sure, Rochester is the same way in principle, but the flowery language of the era had him passionately expressing himself quite a bit. His contemporary equivalent had no such luck => he ends up with a number of lines that I felt were not enough for me, as a reader, to actually grow to care for/about him. And then there is this other problem: in the beginning he goes out of his way to spend time with Jane, and it seemed to me a bit contrived; I can buy them falling in love after they got to know each other, but a rock star deigning to notice one of ‘the help’, as someone in his entourage puts it, and then ignore his own busy schedule to spend time with her did strike me as a bit odd (it was not so in Jane Eyre, where Mr. Rochester had only a handful of people around the house, all of them servants, so it wasn’t that much of a wonder he took an interest in the one newcomer; however Mr. Rathburn’s house is teeming with people, making any particular one of them that less likely to stand out).
The thing about the characters (less so with Jane, more so with Nico) is that while the author has done a great job with adapting the major scenes and dialogue of Jane Eyre to modern times, the parts that are her own contribution seemed to me less good. Starting with Jane’s family, who are so uni-dimensional they seem more like cardboard props than anything else, each of them having a single trait and that’s that (sister = self-involved, brother = aggressive, mother = uncaring). The rest of the newly introduced cast is less cardboardy, but not by much; the scenes, while not particularly bad, do not stand out in any way, they never made me feel things; which is quite a pity since, again, I was happy to see how ingeniously adapted the Jane Eyre parts were.
For example, I thought the motivations Nico had for his choices were surprisingly believable and rather well done:
As usual, I am fond of the small details :)
While the author has changed some of the names completely (no Edward Rochester, *sigh*), she did keep or subtly altered some of the others. “Adele”‘s mother is named Celine, the brother of the “madwoman in the attic” is also named Mason. Thornfield, which I always envisioned as a gray, gloomy estate, is now Thornfield Park, a place surrounded with greens and giving off a completely different vibe. The dog, named Pilot in the original, is now named Copilot :) Diana and Mary have almost the same first names, with a different last name; St. John Rivers is now River St. John :) Last but not least, Blanche Ingram turned into a Bianca Ingram (which is fun, given that both Blanche and Bianca mean ‘white’, in French and Italian, respectively).
My reaction on the names the author has created ‘from scratch’ is a less happy one. I hated having someone named Bibi with all my might. And Nico… it’s true that ‘Edward’ is one of my favorite names, so it would have been hard to find one to match it, but still, Nico does not sound imposing enough (plus it’s sort of obvious it’s not his real name, and as such it sounds fake, on top of it all). Alas, I admit that these are my personal pet peeves (as it happens, in my country Nico is a girl’s name and Bibi is sort of a joke name for a boy), but they did detract from my enjoyment nonetheless.
Thoughts on the title
Love its simplicity :)
Thoughts on the ending
While in the first moment I was in two minds about the injury the author gave Nico, after I finished reading I ended up admitting it was the best choice.
Recommend it to?
Anyone who is curious about how Jane Eyre would sound like in contemporary times. I would say this is the best Jane Eyre retelling I’ve ever read, but so far this is the only such book that has crossed my path. I’m sure however that this is one of the best adaptations out there :)