Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Giveaway Win
What if, after twenty-something years of marriage, Jane and Edward Rochester decided to travel abroad to the West Indies for several years?
What if they had a sixteen year old daughter they decided to leave behind in England with a guardian and companion in a Yorkshire estate close to her home?
While I’ve read and enjoy several novels that share the romantic life of Charlotte Brontë (my favorite being The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James) and list her masterpiece, Jane Eyre, as one of my all-time favorite reads, this is my first time reading a sequel to Jane Eyre! Similar to many Jane Austen sequels, this story takes place many years later and revolves more around the offspring of the happily married couple than the couple themselves. I was happy to feel an immediate interest and sympathy for our heroine, Janet Rochester and loved her clear and open narrative voice.
In this sequel that spans close to four years, readers will see what becomes of Janet as she is sent to school and then later to live with her guardian, a widowed Colonel Dent, who lives seven miles from Thornfield in his own estate called Highcrest Manor. While Janet can find happiness and comfort at Highcrest, there are some things that cut up her peace a little bit. Like what are those sounds she hears at night? Why is the East Wing completely closed off? Why are the servants acting so secretive? Also, Colonel Dent’s secretary, Roderick Landless, bears a striking resemblance to Janet’s father…is there some familial connection there? Who are Roderick’s parents? What is his story?
As you can see, this is quite an engrossing and intriguing plot with a lot of echoes of Charlotte Brontë’s original novel. I greatly enjoyed all the mysteries and secrets and appreciated how the parallels weren’t too overt and obvious. This story felt very much its own and the well-defined and captivating characters helped create a new world for readers to explore. I found Janet extremely admirable – she was loyal, fierce, kind-hearted, and strong. I also enjoyed the enigmatic and dark characters of this tale, it was diverting to speculate about their secrets and try to puzzle out their histories.
Along with themes of independence, family, and unknown secrets – Jane Eyre’s Daughtertouches upon the theme of forbidden love. With Janet’s worshipful adoration of her father, her developing feelings for someone who may be related to her, and the depiction of a pair of siblings who seem to share a closer than familial bond, there are some undertones of taboo love. This may not be to the liking of some readers, but knowing the Brontës propensity to be radical, passionate, and dramatic, to me it felt well within the realm of what one would expect in Brontë-esque literature.
One aspect of this story that I think many readers won’t like or agree with is the author’s portrayal of Jane Rochester. She is portrayed as a strong and loving wife, but one who favors her son with attention and affection and not her daughter. Towards her daughter she is cold and stringent – no kind words, no embraces, no tenderness. Seeing how Jane behaved towards Adele Varens, this just doesn’t ring true. However, rather than be completely turned off by this author’s portrayal, I decided push aside my opposing view and buy in, as having a distant and unaffectionate mother seemed to serve the author’s purpose. Since we don’t see Jane Rochester much after the first couple of chapters, this was easy to do.
Jane Eyre’s Daughter is an engrossing read that I would definitely recommend to readers who enjoy gothic romances and mysteries. With its echoes of Jane Eyre, intriguing characters, and gothic tone this story is a lovely homage to Jane Eyre.
Note: Austenesque readers might like to know that Ms. Newark is also the author of a Pride and Prejudice sequel – The Darcys Give a Ball. I’m looking forward to checking it out!