John Eyre. Mimi Matthews. 2021. [August] 312 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: John Eyre stood over the freshly turned heap of earth, his head bent and his gloved hands clasped behind his back. The sun was breaking over the bleak Surrey Hills, a slowly rising rim of molten gold. It burned at the edges of the morning fog that blanketed the valley, pushing back the darkness, but doing nothing at all to alleviate the bone-numbing chill that had settled into his limbs.
Premise/plot: Mimi Matthews' newest book is a retelling of Jane Eyre. But it isn't your traditional retelling; it isn't a light update or a slight remix.
For one thing she reverses the genders of many of the characters. John Eyre is a tutor advertising for a new job, looking for new pupils. Mr. Fairfax contacts him about tutoring TWO wards of a widow woman, a Bertha (Mason) Rochester: two young lads Stephen and Peter. He makes his way to Yorkshire and Thornfield Hall...but his new job holds some surprises for him.
It keeps the historical setting--Victorian England 1840s. But it turns up the horror and thriller aspects by a thousand degrees. All while managing to hold onto the threads of romance.
My thoughts: John Eyre is the third Jane Eyre retelling I've read in the month of May. It is probably the most successful in my opinion. (I am not talking successful in terms of sales--it's not even releases yet--or even others ratings of it--again not released yet--but successful in terms of working for me personally.)
I loved the narrative. It is told from TWO perspectives. The present story is told from the perspective of John Eyre. (Though it is NOT told in first person--either first person past or first person present). Readers experience events as they unfold. Mystery is added in with the second perspective that of Bertha (Mason) Rochester. We come to know her story through LETTERS AND DIARIES. (A very Victorian way to add mystery and suspense and just plain old tell a good story. I can think of a handful of Victorian novels that use multiple narrators and multiple narrative techniques--including letters, diaries, etc.)
I love how the story is woven together. Trust me TWO stories are woven together--quite brilliantly in my opinion. The two stories are both CLASSIC NOVELS. One being Jane Eyre...the other being equally famous, equally dark (if not more so), both Victorian. I will NOT be the one to name names.
I love how she incorporates some of the best bits of Jane Eyre.
I would recommend it to readers who love Victorian literature and are up for a good, solid spin on two of the best.
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews