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Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark (1997)

Book review: Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008 [1997])

A passionate young woman of high courage …

In this sequel to Jane Eyre, young Janet Rochester is consigned to Highcrest Manor and the guardianship of the strict Colonel Dent while her parents journey to the West Indies. As Janet struggles to make a life for herself, guided by the ideals of her parents, she finds herself caught up in the mysteries of Highcrest.

Why is the East Wing forbidden to her? What lies behind locked gates? And what is the source of the voices she hears in hte night? Can she trust the enigmatic Roderick Landless, or should she transfer her allegiance to the suave and charming Sir Hugo Calendar?

Whether riding her mare on the Yorkshire moors, holding her own with Colonel Dent, or waltzing at her first ball, Janet is strong, sympathetic, and corageous.

After all, she is her mother’s daughter …

This is a pretty good book and it has some nice parallels with the original, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Not to say it’s without it’s problems.

Doth contain elements of spoilerage.

It starts out with Janet Rochester, the daughter of Jane and Edward. She had read her mother’s memoirs (i.e. Jane Eyre), and sure, that works. The name Janet also works. What doesn’t work for me is how Jane (Eyre) as a mother cares very little for her daughter, who perhaps looks a bit too much like herself – plain and little. Instead, she dotes on the son, who is the spitting image of his father, leaving Rochester to dote on his daughter. It has “dysfunctional” written all over it. I just can’t believe the Jane Charlotte Brontë wrote about would be so callous toward her own offspring as to basically do her best to ignore her. It doesn’t sit right with me. Rochester seems more like the father I believe he would be.

If you’re detecting a certain hint of reverse Oedipus complex in the Jane/Edward Jr relationship, you’d be right. If you’re wondering if there’s also a case of Electra complex with regards to Janet and her father – damn straight there is. In fact, the book could just as well be called Jane Eyre’s Daughter: The Electra Complex, because in parts, Janet’s love for her father gets rather creeptastic and squicky. Did I imagine things or did the author actually allude to Janet getting her own rocks off while thinking of her dad? It was really a case of “wait, did that just say what I think it said? o.O Eww, that is WRONG!” (If anyone reads this who is a fellow member of a certain online roleplaying game and who might therefore be familiar with a couple of my characters and their … unorthodox relationship: yes, there is definitely a limit to that sort of thing, even for me. :P)

Aaaaanyway.

Jane, Edward and their son go sailing around the world, because it’s something they’ve always wanted to do and Edward’s getting on a bit. The daughter is put in a London boarding school for girls, which to me has echoes of Madame Beck’s Pensionnat in Villette. Especially since one of the characters have much the same name as one of the girls in Villette, but I can’t remember if it’s Ginevra or Fanshawe. I think there was even a Paulina. One of the school girls is an offspring of Blanche Ingram. Janet doesn’t get on with her at all, surprise surprise.

Speaking of Villette, every chapter begins with a little vignette which has a fitting quote from all of Charlotte Brontë’s novels, except for perhaps The Professor. Very nice touch! And a very pretty-looking book as well. Nice design.

When saving the day on horseback, because she’s such a fabulous rider (takes after her dad), Janet encounters a Mr. Calendar and his sister, who turn out to be the people who have rented Thornfield Hall (rebuilt) in the absence of the Rochesters. I saw those two coming a mile off, and when their Big Lurking Secret was revealed, I burst out laughing. I had been right all along. My mind can be surprisingly dirty sometimes. (As well the aforementioned roleplayers know.) So I wasn’t shocked but rather … amused, not to mention semi-hoping Newark would write a whole book about them. Doubt that would ever happen, but y’know, it’d be an interesting read. Bizarre and bonkers and probably oodles of squicky too. Yay!

Where was I? Oh yes, there is a Cunning Plan, so that if the Rochesters should happen to disappear on their voyage, Janet becomes the ward of Colonel Dent, Rochester’s old chum, at Highcrest Manor, close to Thornfield. There, Janet comes across a Mystery, which – once it’s finally revealed – is a big anticlimax. It’s not exactly on par with hiding your mad wife in the attic.

Meanwhile, Janet is being groomed by creepy Mr. Calendar while falling in love with Roderick “I don’t know who my father is” Landless (oh snap what a blatantly obvious name), who just happens to be the spitting image of dear ol’ Daddy Rochester. Could he perhaps be her half-brother, the legitimate offspring of Rochester and Bertha Mason? Could he? Could he? I’m surprised no one in the book thought of the alternative explanation, which I thought was pretty obvious and which turned out to be true, to be honest.

I like the way Janet and Roderick meet the first time – so Hay Lane it put a big smile on my face. There are several things like that which I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed the writing and the tone and a lot of other things about this book, even though it might not sound like it from the above comments. It’s actually a well done Jane Eyre sequel, and if the only major criticism I have against it is “but Jane wouldn’t be like that”, well, I can live with that. Perhaps it also helps that Jane and Rochester only make very brief appearances in the book. This is the story of their daughter, after all.

It’s a nice little Victorian mystery/love story, starring the 18-year-old daughter of a much loved Victorian literature couple. It kind of works. It was a quick and fairly engaging read, and there were similarities with the original. In a way, it’s Jane Eyre. With added incest. So yeah. Look through that and it’s a fairly decent novel under the bonnet. 3 out of 5 far-too-friendly families.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

2 thoughts on “Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark (1997)

  1. Love this review, as your complaints about the book are exactly the ones I had. Thinking of Jane’s nearly immediate bond with Adele, her future husband’s possibly illegitimate daughter, I found it hard to believe that Jane would be cold and stiff with any child of hers fathered by Rochester. Her own orphanhood, the grudging care given to her by nearly everyone in her childhood, her anger at the emotional abuse of Helen at Lowood, the open heart that allowed her to immediately grow fond of Adele and Mrs. Fairfax, her joy at finding some actual family members, and the generosity that led her to share her inheritance with the Rivers family….all these are characteristics of Jane that I feel would have caused her to lovingly and joyfully embrace her own children from the moment they were conceived.

    And Janet’s attitude toward her father….all I can say is EWWWWWW! Ok, I had a father and I know that if if all goes as it’s supposed to, a dad is very important to a daughter. He’s her first love, as it were. But there’s a limit. I loved my late father as much as any girl, but lemme assure you, I never lay in my bed thinking of him, squirming over him and changing temperature just at the thought of him. (Ok, vomit lapping at my tonsils now….).

    I wrote a review of this book for Amazon, back in the day when I first read it, and expressed the creepy crawly feelings that this book gave me. Later I got a email from the author herself, courteous but a little defensive that I’d viewed her Janet and Rochester relationship as a little incestuous. She wrote that she had felt the same way about her own father. My reactions was, “O–kay. Not sure I’d tell anyone that….”

    The book is otherwise very good, other than sort of rehashing plot devices right from the original. But Newark is a good writer, and this book has some excellent moments, as does her other book, “Consequence” about Charlotte Lucas. All in all, except for being a tad too…Freud-intensive, I would recommend it.

  2. Oh gosh, really? Yeah, like you say, we’re all attached to our dads (being the first hero we encounter) but I’ve never gone “swoon!” at the thought of him. I leave that bit to my mum, and I don’t take her for the swooning type.

    Thank you for your comments! 🙂 It reminds me, I should put more reviews up on Amazon.

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