Readers, if you were to do a quick search for Jane Eyre on my blog, you'll see that I'm maybe a fan...
Who am I kidding, I'm definitely a fan and a sucker for anything paying tribute to, retelling, or just plain compared to the gothic classic. So when Michelle Gagnon's newest teen tale turned out to be a modern retelling, I was all over it!
Janie Mason has lost everything. Orphaned and alone, she's shipped from her home in Hawaii to live under the care of one of her father's oldest friends in San Francisco. And while initially the Rochesters are welcoming enough - well except for not even being home when she arrived, that is - things quickly go off the rails.
The youngest Rochester, a boy who seems ignored and neglected by everyone but the elderly maid, is insistent that his dead twin sister is still hanging around. His older sister is none too pleased about having to share her home or school with Janie unless it means spending more of her daddy's money. Oh, and Mrs. Rochester makes no bones about the fact that Janie is a HUGE inconvenience. But it's the strange noises in the mansion at night and the appearance of the never mentioned elder Rochester son that really get Janie's radar going.
That and someone in the Rochester house - real or spectral - seems intent on making sure Janie knows her place!
Janie Mason is definitely a modern girl. A surfer used to spending every spare hour on her board, she grew up in a loving household with strained finances. And though the Rochesters seem to have more money than Midas, their house is about as warm as the mythological king's must have been.
The relationship between the Rochester patriarch and his family is ice cold. In fact, Janie soon realizes that most of the people in the household do their best not to upset the man. And he gives off some majorly odd vibes as far as Janie is concerned. But he's sweet as pie when she first arrives, making him pretty much her only ally in the house.
Well, excepting six year old Nicholas.
Nicholas is in fact the only Rochester in Janie's welcoming party. Up past bedtime and anxious to meet her, he lets slip a tiny detail about his dead twin sister that nags at Janie as the story progresses.
And it nags at the reader as well.
What I love most about Jane Eyre is the underlying atmosphere, and this element is something Gagnon stayed especially true to in Unearthly Things. The noises at night, the happenings in the house, and the very hush hush story about the dead Rochester girl all give the tale a great creepy undertone.
My only real complaint about Unearthly Things was that it was too short. I could have spent quite a while more in this tale, and I think the characters and their relationships, as well as the setting, would have benefitted from just a bit of extra development overall. That said, the story is a successfully fun twist on Bronte's creation that also stands well on its own.
(Oh, I've got my hands on another retelling due out next month as well! See, I can't pass it up!)