Like Christian Grey, Edward Rochester is definitely on the creepier side of the “romantic hero” spectrum (see also: Heathcliff, the Phantom of the Opera and Edward Cullen). Will Sarah Shoemaker finally get to the bottom of why Mr. R does the often irrational and terrible things he does, but is so nice to Jane (when he’s not tricking her into bigamy)!? Naturally as a huge Jane Eyre fan girl, I already have my hold in place! However, there have already been several great books that were inspired by Jane Eyre. Below are a few of my favorites:
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966).
Ask anyone who ever dated someone who described their ex as “crazy” (or my personal favorite “psycho”), and they will probably tell you that there are two very different sides to that story. Here, Rhys tells us the side of Mr. R’s “crazy” ex (or um... current-but-stowed-away) wife, Bertha. In this novel, Bertha goes by her birth name Antoinette. Before marrying Mr. R, Antoinette grew up in Jamaica. When her brother was killed during a house fire, Antoinette’s mother became mentally unstable and unable to care for her. Her stepfather, Mr. Mason, arranges a marriage with Mr. R to make sure Antoinette is taken care of financially. However, the marriage is terrible. Mr. R cheats frequently and hates his new home in the Caribbean. He forces Antoinette to go by a more English name “Bertha” and move to England with him. From there, things go from bad to nightmarish, when he forces “Bertha” to stay locked away in the attic. Wide Sargasso Sea is an interesting look at the imbalance of 19th century gender relations and colonialism.
Jane Re by Patrica Park (2015).
If you’re looking for something lighter than Wide Sargasso Sea, check out this modern take on Jane’s story. Jane Re is a mixed race orphan; her mother was Korean and her dad was white, which makes her an outcast in her Korean community in Flushing, Queens. Jane works at her mean Uncle Sang’s grocery store, which she hates. However, when she graduates from college, Jane seeks an opportunity to get out of her Uncle’s house by becoming a nanny for an academic couple in Brooklyn. This book is a fast and enjoyable read, with plenty of Jane Eyre references.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesy (2012).
Set in the Scottish moors and Iceland during the late 1950s and early 60, Margot Livesy’s Jane Eyre homage was inspired by her childhood. The plot of the book is very similar to original, but the passage of time forward gave Gemma more opportunities for freedom than her predecessor. As a young orphan living with her uncle, Gemma is mistreated by her aunt and siblings after his death. A doctor helps her get into a prestigious boarding school, but she is tormented by the other students and teachers inside for being on scholarship. She finally feels accepted as an au pair for the dashing Mr. Sinclair, but he turns out to have a dark secret (ladies, life advice, never date a man who won’t let you call him by his first name!). If you’re thinking why read this when I can read the original, Livesy’s book is a stand-out for her fluid and descriptive prose, as well as the interesting settings of the novel. Livesy makes the reader feel at home in 20th century Scotland and Iceland.