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Charlotte - the final journey of Jane Eyre
Geschreven door D.M. Thomas
Geplaatst op 31-08-2021 om 11:28

While there is a plethora of prequels, sequels, and variants of the works of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters have inspired a lot less novels. It seems that the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne sometimes eclipse their writings when it comes to inspiring novels (other than the classic ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’).
No wonder ‘Charlotte – the final journey of Jane Eyre’ by D.M. Thomas stood out to me.
The story starts of great, with the morning of the marriage of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and a description of their first married days together. But as the narrative progresses, discrepancies with the novel arise: the marriage is not happy, and there is no pregnancy or child.

The matter with spin-offs is always that you must decide whether to embrace this new vision of the author and to ‘roll with’ the version presented, or to reject it. And I certainly think that a sequel-writer must be allowed some freedom. But in this case, it all went too far.

The main character in the book is not Jane Eyre, but a Miranda Stevenson (pushing 40, married, two children). She was raised by a bibliophile father, is now a university lecturer and has come to Martinique to give a lecture on Charlotte Brontë.
There she proceeds to sleep around with every man that shows any interest, making audiotapes of the deeds. As the story unfolds, it turns out that the start of the book was written by her in Charlotte’s handwriting and presented to her father as a newly discovered alternative ending to Jane Eyre. This was done when she was twelve, and her father still believes in the authenticity of the manuscript.

Both storylines reek with sex, madness and total abandonment, and the only way I could make any sense of it, is seeing Miranda as some crazed descendant of Bertha Mason.
In the alternative Jane Eyre ending we re-encounter miss Temple (loved that!), find out that St. John Rivers did passionately love Jane, discover that Rochester was still obsessed with Bertha while he kept her in the attic and that Adele was their second child. A drunken Rochester meets his end, falling off a horse. After his death, Jane discovers that he has a son with Bertha on Martinique, and she travels with Grace Pool to the island to find this young man, who turns out to be black (hence him being hidden out of sight on the island). Eventually, she and this Robert Rochester live together as man and wife, and while pregnant Jane succumbs to a fever and dies.
It is a mess. I have no inclination whatsoever to ever read this book again and would like to issue a warning to any unsuspecting Brontë afficionado who, like me, was attracted to this book.
*!Read at your own peril!*

Charlotte: The final journey of Jane Eyre - D.M. Thomas -1/5 stars