As a teenager Jane Eyre was one of my favourite books. It was not a set book for an exam instead one that I had chosen for myself from a suggested classics list provided by my English teacher. It had a lasting impact on me. The gothic plot, the setting and the themes all attracted me and the mystery element guaranteed that this was a story that I made time for. However it was the character of Jane that ensured that this book will always have a special place in my memory. On the surface a small, quiet insignificant person she had hidden depths that gave her a great deal of appeal. This is at heart a ‘coming of age’ story way before such a concept had been considered. When I heard that Barrington Stoke were publishing a retelling of this classic that is so important to me and many other readers I was intrigued. I wondered how you could transfer the lengthy story into a manageable and accessible text without losing what made it such a renowned literary work. I approached my reading of my review copy with, I confess, a little trepidation. I should never have worried. Tanya Landman has managed to convey the themes, accentute the key plot points and, most impressively to me at least, capture Jane’s wonderful spirit. I loved this and think it is brilliantly done.
The reader accompanies Jane on her journey from childhood to maturity. As an orphan she is ill treated by her guardians and then banished to Lowood, a harsh boarding school where she is raised in the shadow of cruelty and deprivation. As a teenager she takes a job as a governess to the ward of Mr Rochester at Thornfield Hall. It is there that the secrets and mystery deepen and Jane’s life takes a dramatic turn.
Jane’s voice is central to this remarkable story and Tanya Landman has ensured that Jane’s spirit, determination, fierce independence and intelligence is retained and this will, I believe, add to this retelling’s appeal to today’s young readers. The compelling drama, including the ‘mad woman in the attic’, that makes this such a well known story even to those who have never read it is rewritten powerfully and with care and poignancy too.
The author has greatly reduced the length of the part of the book when Jane stays with the Rivers’ family and the lengthy religious discussions. This is probably a wise decision as many young readers, in my experience, have found that section harder work. The language throughout is accessible and yet the text still feels true to the original. In fact this so rekindled my enthusiasm for the book that I have unearthed my dog-eared and yellowing copy from the 1970s and am keen to reread this old favourite now.
This is the perfect way to introduce this wonderful classic to readers who may be put off by the length of the original or its Victorian prose. Tanya Landman has captured the heart of the story, the plot, the passion and also the hopes of the young character who made such an impact on me all those years ago.
Jane Eyre by Tanya Landman is published on 15th January and is available to purchase here. Like all Barrington Stoke publications it is printed on an off – white background and in an accessible easy to read typeface. The book has a reading age of 9+ and would be excellent for set text study in secondary schools. I also think it would be suitable as a read for pleasure for Year 6 in primary schools. It deserves a place in every secondary school library.
Thank you to Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for providing my review copy.