Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
Rating: ★★★ // A classic in a new light
This review is really only a spoiler if you haven’t read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. If you have read it, read on, if you haven’t read it, you could probably still read this, you just won’t fully understand my rants, so it may be a waste of time to endure my run-on sentences.
Summary (via GoodReads)
For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.
Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker’s rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward’s eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.
But much as he longs to be accepted-and to return to the home where he was born-his father has made clear that Thornfield is reserved for his older brother, Rowland, and that Edward’s inheritance lies instead on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica. That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and not long after his arrival, Edward finds himself entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town’s ravishing heiress, Antoinetta Bertha Mason.
Eventually, after a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain, young governess who will teach him how to love again.
It is impossible not to watch enthralled as this tender-hearted child grows into the tormented hero Brontë immortalized-and as Jane surprises them both by stealing his heart. Mr. Rochester is a great, sweeping, classic coming-of-age story, and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë’s original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre.
At times this book was a 4 for me, at others it was a 2, but it finished strong at a solid 3.
I have to start by saying that I hated Jane Eyre. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word, but I really really disliked it and I get very angry when I think about it…so maybe hate isn’t too strong of a word. As someone who loves classics more than any other genre, I was so disappointed. The only thing I really liked (or actually loved) about it was the language and writing style–the Bronte’s were truly masters of the English language. I kept telling myself I have to re-read it and give it another chance, but after reading Mr. Rochester, and being reminded about the plot, I really don’t think I do…it’s just not my cup o’ tea.
Due to my dislike of Jane Eyre, I did not have high expectations for this book, yet I tried to keep an open mind because stories from another point of view are usually quite interesting, and I was actually hoping this different perspective would make me like the classic better…at times it did, but overall, nah.
This book starts strong and I loved reading about Rochester’s childhood, and slowly I started to gain more respect for the man I considered a serious creep because before. It goes through his dysfunctional relationship with his father and brother, and his childhood friends and teachers who took him under their wings, and gave him the closet thing he had ever known to be a real family. This is definitely the strongest part of the book, and I flew through it, excited to learn more about this poor, lonely boy, whose one desire was to make his father proud.
Once I got about halfway, however, my enthusiasm died as the book slowed down quite a bit. This is around the time he heads off to Jamaica and all that drama begins to take shape. At times the story would pick up and my interest would rise, but then it would fall again. By the time Jane came into the picture, I was already ready for the book to end, and the plot of “will they or won’t they” just drove me crazy (as it did in Jane Eyre). Like I’ve said before, the book isn’t bad, and the story from his point of view is intriguing, it just moves at a very very slow pace, and I just wanted to get to the wedding drama and then be done.
When it comes to our protagonist (Rochester, not Jane), I do think his character was explained very well in the beginning of the story, and it helped form the background that is lacking in Bronte’s story. However, the excuses and reasons he gave for hiding his wife in the attic and then not telling anyone about it, even the girl you are literally about to marry, still fall short for me and I still see him as practically as crazy (just in a different way) as his attic wife.
Jane’s character is exactly the same, so there is nothing new there. Bertha’s character is, well, interesting, to say the least and I think Shoemaker did a very good job portraying her illness given the information in Jane Eyre.
Mr. Rochester is written well, however I think it is very difficult to try and rewrite classics with modern language because it doesn’t flow the way you want it to when you mesh old style with new. Again, not terrible, it just seemed forced at some points.
Unfortunately, I do think my dislike of Jane Eyre tainted my opinion of this book, because I just couldn’t get over how much I disliked Jane and Rochester together.
HOWEVER, I really do think that fans of the Jane Eyre story will like this book and they will be tickled to see the story come back to life.
Lastly, (this is really a spoiler if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, so stop reading if you haven’t) but hands-down the best part of the book was when mirrored the famous line “reader, I married him” and wrote “reader, she married me.” –that was awesome, well done Mrs. Shoemaker.
**I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review! Thank you for the copy!