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Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair

2nd Oct 2012

Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Eve Sinclair

Eve Sinclair’s debut novel Jane Eyre Laid Bare is an erotic reimagining of Charlotte Brontë’s classic text.

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.

A work such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights would have been far more suitable for this level of re-write, where sexuality is a core aspect of the novel.

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.

Jane Eyre Laid Bare is out now from Pan Macmillan and is available in paperback for £7.99 and Kindle for 74p.

Rating: 2/5

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.

Erykah Brackenbury

Comments

  • I have to admit, the premise of this book made me stabby. P&P&Zombies was clearly in fun, but this book seemed to say, “hey, you know all that sexy anticipation? To hell with that, let’s stomp all over Bronte’s intention and rewrite her book for the raunch era.” I know that all stories, in a sense, belong to the public, but what happened to a basic respect for *what the author actually said*?

    I think fan fiction that know it’s fan fiction is an asset to our culture – it makes storytelling interactive, the way it was back when we were doing it around fires on the savannah, and allows the hearer to make the story their own. But there’s a line between fan fiction and trampling all over something, and I’m a bit depressed because I can’t clearly define it. But maybe it’s like pornography – you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. To me, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is on one side of that line, and Jane Eyre Laid Bare is on the other.