Author: Charlotte Bronte & Eve Sinclair
Throughout my life I have read many many books, I would hate to hazard a guess at an actual number, and they have been of many genres, classics included. My memory becomes quite vague over time on many of the books I have read by the sheer volume of them, which I think is to be expected. I have read the original Jane Eyre at some point over the years, I think it was after finishing school but I couldn’t be certain. Either way, I know there have been many books read between then and now so I don’t remember the original clearly, at the moment I can’t decide whether that’s a blessing or a hindrance.
My original impression of the erotic retelling of Jane Eyre was one of ‘Really???’. I tried to go in with an open mind and a healthy curiosity as to how they have done this, trying to focus as much on the combination of voices as the actual story in an attempt to remain objective. I love the classics, or the idea of the classics at least. And hypocritical as it may seem I have less hesitancy about the vamping, zombifying and other supernatural twists added to the classics than I do about the eroticising of them.
Jane Eyre Laid Bare may be the first of the eroticised classics I have come across but a little internet research has shown that there are actually quite a few of them around. I have read a few of the sequels to classics, written by new authors, and again looked at it a little differently. The sequels are the new authors imaginings of what happens next, and some of them are quite well done. It is a little strange when you can find two or three different sequels to the same classic and each of the authors have taken the characters in a different direction. But these sequels don’t touch the classic, they leave the classic as it is and follow on from it – or in some cases there are prequels that precede the classic.
That is not what we have here. Jane Eyre Laid Bare is the classic with the addition of an erotic twist.
Try as I might to keep an open mind it was extremely difficult. My lack of recent familiarity with the original may be a blessing in that I couldn’t recognise where one voice ended and the other began. Sinclair has certainly done well in retaining the voice of the time in her additional storyline, there is no glaring scenes that you instantly feel were penned over a century and a half after the others.
The erotic passages began quite early in the novel which did surprise me a little, I was expecting to be eased slowly into the new feel of the story but that was not to be. Our plain, pure innocent young Jane was pleasuring herself within the first three pages and I had to stop and wonder what I had got myself into.
The entire feel of the novel is more debauched than I would have expected. The artwork adorning the hall is mainly of copulating couples, there are phallic ornaments in one of the public rooms and an entire collection of illustrated fornication manuals. Even young Adele, Rochester’s ward and Jane’s pupil sings a suggestive song early on and is then quite comfortable in company where many of the guests are behaving quite lasciviously, without any thought of censoring their behaviour because of Adele’s presence.
It took me a while to get into this book, largely I think because the secret thoughts and desires of Jane were so far removed from the pure innocence I had come to attribute to her. The purpose of many scenes is nothing more than awakening new desires in Jane, even though most of the scenes were not meant for her eyes.I do have to say that these scenes fit quite well with the time period in which they are set, they are believable in that setting.
I sit here thinking back over the novel, the story and the additional twists trying to put into words my feelings and I am still not quite sure. Part of me remains a little put off by the eroticising of the classics but there is a part of me that appreciates the way this was put together.
Eve Sinclair shows us a completely different side of Jane, and it’s a side that allows her to choose a different future for herself at the end of the book, there is also a very different Bertha Mason storyline.
My personal thoughts are that if you can suspend all thoughts of the original you could find this quite an enjoyable foray into the behind closed doors debauchery of the 19th century. It has left me seriously considering trawling my bookcases in search of the original to refresh my memory of Bronte’s story.