Tuesday 20 June 2017

Book Review: Mr Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

Title: Mr Rochester
Author: Sarah Shoemaker
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 9 May 2017
Pages: 464
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley


A gorgeous, deft literary retelling of Charlotte Bronte's beloved Jane Eyre--through the eyes of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself.

"Reader, she married me."
For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature's most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë's masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker's rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward's eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.

But much as he longs to be accepted-and to return to the home where he was born-his father has made clear that Thornfield is reserved for his older brother, Rowland, and that Edward's inheritance lies instead on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica. That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and not long after his arrival, Edward finds himself entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town's ravishing heiress, Antoinetta Bertha Mason.

Eventually, after a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain, young governess who will teach him how to love again.

It is impossible not to watch enthralled as this tender-hearted child grows into the tormented hero Brontë immortalized-and as Jane surprises them both by stealing his heart.
Mr Rochester is a great, sweeping, classic coming-of-age story, and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë's original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre. (Goodreads Synopsis)

With a book such as Mr Rochester there are bound to be detractors. Sometimes fans of works like Jane Eyre disapprove of derivatives as a matter of course. I prefer to approach things with a more open mind. Does this book alter the characterisation of Rochester? A little. However, I don't think that's a problem. The differences occur because we are viewing his words and actions from a varied perspective, having more information about his background to account for his behaviour. On the whole, I found this a sympathetic portrayal of the iconic character. Naturally, I was eager to get the scenes with Jane, yet I still enjoyed the opening two books on his childhood and life as a naïve young man. I would recommend Mr Rochester to fans of Jane Eyre who aren't afraid to allow a little leeway in interpretation, and, of course, to readers who enjoy these kinds of derivative works. Overall, Mr Rochester is an easygoing and delightful read that manages to feel both familiar and new.

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