"Reader, she married me."
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.
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads because I enjoyed the first half of the book so much. The author remained very true to Brontë’s Jane Eyre and even managed to incorporate aspects of Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. I have to admire that!
The first half of the book, dealing with Edward Fairfax Rochester’s life before he meets his Jane, was the most enjoyable for me. I loved the back-story that Ms. Shoemaker created for him—the vulnerable, sensitive little boy who missed his mother and was ignored by his father. She obviously spent a great deal of time on the question, “What made Mr. Rochester into the man who met Jane Eyre?”
Once Jane appears in this text, however, there are constraints. You don’t mess with the Jane Eyre story, after all. For me, things changed at this point. Instead of the colourful, free painting that Shoemaker began with, she was reduced to paint-by-number. She introduced some interesting ideas that aren’t in Brontë’s original, but then has to wrap them up swiftly and neatly in order to fit into the accepted canon.
In short, very true to the original work and another interesting look at an old favourite.