2nd Oct 2012
Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair
Part of the ‘literary mash-up’ genre, initiated most recently by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the story is familiar to most – plain and unloved Jane Eyre finds a role as a governess for the stern Mr Rochester.
Falling in love with him under unexpected circumstances, their happiness is short-lived at the discovery of his first wife, a secret he has failed to keep hidden.
Sinclair happily plays with the original storyline, adding scenes of a sexual nature liberally throughout the text.
Perhaps wisely eschewing the story of Jane’s schooldays, the novel opens when Jane is eighteen, focusing mostly on her experiences at Thornfield Hall.
The major problem with the novel lies in the issue the lack of available points within the source text in which to add gratuitous scenes.
Instead of an epic sexual relationship between Jane and Rochester, this is held back until the final quarter of the novel, and we are instead treated to interminable scenes of Jane masturbating and watching a number of other couples conveniently having sex in her vicinity.
Indeed, turning Jane Eyre into an erotic novel is a particularly odd choice as the majority of Charlotte Brontë’s novel is based on the subtle and unsaid.
Whilst there is a frisson of passion throughout Jane Eyre, the beauty of the text lies in the chastity of the relationship between the protagonists; indeed, Jane almost seems to attract Rochester purely due to her purity and unavailability.
However, the treatment of Bertha, the madwoman in the attic more sensitively reimagined in more recent times, is nothing short of offensive.
Instead of a sympathetic reading of a cruelly-treated individual, she instead becomes a mad, sex-crazed dominatrix. This not only does a disservice to sexually dominant women, it has the effect of excusing Rochester’s appalling treatment of his first wife.
Despite the oddity of juxtaposing Jane Eyre with an erotic narrative, Jane Eyre Laid Bare is still an entertaining read. Sinclair builds upon the feminist elements introduced by Brontë, leading to a satisfying ending not present in the original text.
Although incredibly silly, the book still somehow remains a page-turner, no doubt at least in part due to Brontë’s brilliant novel.
Recommended for: Lovers of erotica; Jane Eyre fans with a sense of fun.
Other recommended reading: John Cleland’s Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure for some genuine 18th-century smut; Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys for a more sympathetic interpretation of Bertha; Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair for a brilliantly bonkers world built around Jane Eyre.