Monday, May 24, 2010

Jane Eyre's Daughter - Elizabeth Newark

In this sequel to Jane Eyre, young Janet Rochester is consigned to Highcrest Manor and the guardianship of the strict Colonel Dent while her parents journey to the West Indies. As she struggles to make a life for herself guided by their ideals, she is caught up in the mysteries of Highcrest.

Why is the East Wing forbidden to her? What lies behind locked gates? And what is the source of the voices she hears in the night? Can she trust the enigmatic Roderick Landless or should she transfer her allegiance to the suave and charming Sir Hugo Calendar?

Riding her mare on the Yorkshire moors, holding her own with Colonel Dent, or waltzing at her first ball, Janet is a strong and sympathetic character, and like her mother, she will need all her courage ...

Since I recently watched two Jane Eyre adaptations and reread Jane Eyre last year I couldn't resist picking this one to read. Although this is a sequel to Jane Eyre the truth is that Jane and Rochester only appear in the first and last chapters of the book and I found that that was a good thing. Too often I've been disappointed by sequels where the characters I already knew did not seem to behave as in the original book. By keeping them out of sight Newark gave me a chance to appreciate it more because I couldn't quite believe in her Jane and Rochester as the characters of Charlotte Bronte's novel.

Janet Rochester is the daughter of Jane and Rochester. She admires her mother and has a deep love for her father. When she is about sixteen her parents decide to send her to a school while they travel to Jamaica to oversee the lands that Rochester has inherited from his first wife. She will finish her education and, if the family hasn't returned yet, afterwards she will stay with the widower Colonel Dent, one of her guardians.

Janet is a very introspective girl and we get to know her pretty well as the book is told in the first person. After finishing school which she didn't much enjoy except for the friends she made there, Janet goes to live at Highcrest with Colonel Dent. The she meets Mr. Landless, an enigmatic young man which reminds her of her father, and meets again the Calendars, a brother and sister she had first met in London and that have rented Thornfield Hall from her parents.

Highcrest is a dark and mysterious house, Colonel Dent is an old gentleman set in his ways about what is proper or not and he definitely feels that Janet's ways are not as genteel as they should be. Not only that but Janet soon realises that part of the house is closed to her and that all the servants are family or at least come from the area and the Colonel doesn't want outsiders joining the household. Of course Janet is determined to find out what's behind the closed doors...

I did find this Jane Eyre's Daughter an engaging novel. I read it in one sitting actually... There were many similarities between this story and the original Jane Eyre, more than you usually find in sequels I felt, and the one big complaint that I have is, as I mentioned previously, that the original characters, especially Jane, did not ring true. But I did like Janet a lot and I was happy to follow her on her adventures and to unravel all the mysteries regarding Colonel Dent, Mr. Landless and the Calendars. I liked Janet's confrontations with the Colonel and her interaction with both Landless and Calendar, not sure that I did buy Sir Hugo's motivations though.

I did like the story as the gothic novel that it is but, considering my doubts about Jane and Rochester, maybe not so much as a Jane Eyre sequel. It's funny because I actually picked up because of the JE connection and to include in the Bronte Challenge.

Grade: 4/5

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