A Guide to Jane Eyre Retellings
So you’ve fallen in love with Jane Eyre? Where do you go from there? Charlotte Brontë doesn’t exactly have a Stephen King size bibliography. Villette might be a good place to start, or Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. The first is another novel published by Brontë herself and the latter is an intense gothic romance with striking similarities. However, if you find that you’ve fallen in love with Jane herself and the slow romance she builds in her new world, as well as her desire to be true to herself, then a retelling might be in order. If that is the case, you are in luck, because there are several worth mentioning.
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is Jane Eyre reimagined as a murderer. It’s clever, witty, and stays remarkably true to the original, despite the obvious differences. Where it might become ridiculous, it instead becomes enthralling. It’s a fun read by a great writer with the catchy “Reader, I murdered him.”
Re Jane by Patricia Park is a modern retelling, with Jane reimagined as a half Korean, half white college student trying to find her place in the world. This one doesn’t turn out quite like you’d expect and it’s all the better for it – a truly modern Jane, if you will.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. Of all the modern retellings, this one may stick the closest to the original storyline – only Jane moves to the Orkney Islands to be a governess. The remote Scottish backdrop is wonderfully described, though the novel ends rather hastily.
Jane by April Lindner. I picked this one up with excitement, only to be slightly disappointed. Jane is a college dropout turned au pair in this retelling. Edward Fairfax Rochester is reimagined as an aging rock star in this one, there is one particular scene that made me cringe just the tiniest bit. It doesn’t work, but the first half may satisfy your desire for more Jane.
Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn reimagines Bronte’s classic in a rather inventive way – through science fiction! On a distant property, on an even more distant planet, Jenna works for an enigmatic lord that also manages to pull at her heartstrings. An interesting, if unusual take, but it’s worth a chance.
Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair. Not for the faint of heart or the delicate minded, this, if I’m being polite, if Jane Eyre with a regency romance twist. This one is included in the interest of being thorough, rather than a whole-hearted recommendation. Quite honestly, I find it amazing what people can get away with in publishing.
This last one is for a bit of fun and purely anecdotal. It’s not a retelling, but the similarities are remarkable. The Harry Potter series, especially the early few, have quite a bit in common with Brontë’s classic. First, they are orphans taken in by unkindly (and rather unwilling) aunts. Second, they are both unfairly maligned by their male cousin. Third, they are befriended by a kindly teacher and only truly understand themselves after leaving their traditional families and arriving at boarding school. While I doubt J. K. Rowling was imaging how to work Jane Eyre details into her beloved series, it is interesting to draw a comparison between the two.
The reason there are so many reworking of Jane Eyre is because, quite simply, it’s wonderful. It recognizes a sense of self, it has a woman standing up for herself and removing herself from a compromising situation (completely), and it’s full of mystery and romance – all quite notable upon its publication. I hope you find this list helpful and are inspired to pick up at least one of the novels listed, if you haven’t already. Happy reading!