by Eve Marie Mont
Emma Townsend has always believed in stories--the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates. Perhaps it's because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn't come close to filling the void left by her mother's death. And her only romantic prospect--apart from a crush on her English teacher--is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma's confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre. . .
Reading of Jane's isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane's body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she's never known--and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane's story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own. . .
With the premise, I was hoping Emma would have more interaction and have more of a romp in Jane Eyre's world, but the idea that Emma slips into the novel's world was mostly used as a device to help Emma figure out her own real-world problems. The time spent at Thornfield was mostly a reiteration of the novel, except for the end when Emma deviates from Jane's path and realizes she doesn't really love Rochester (What?? incredible! My own bias here, but it does work for this story) and Bertha becomes a much more relatable and sympathetic figure. There are parallels to Emma's real life and Jane's story which are subtle and nicely thought out, and overall I really enjoyed Emma's journey independent of the Jane Eyre aspect. Some of the commentary on Bertha's situation and Rochester's character I disagreed with as a reading of the novel "Jane Eyre", but it fitted in very well with the character development of Emma and what she needed to realize about herself.
As a side thought, I realize that whenever I see a book like this - one that has a modern heroine in the world of Jane Eyre - I hope that it something like one of my favorite books/ favorite mini-series: Austenland by Shannon Hale and the British series "Lost in Austen". They are both funny, irreverent and reverent takes on an Austen fan's outing in the world of their favorite novel and I really identify with their attachment to the story and the characters, perhaps to the detriment of their personal lives, but of course it all works out happily for them. I wish someone could do that with Jane Eyre but I wonder if it is too difficult to take the character of Jane out of her story and replace her with another, because the novel is so much Jane's story, that one couldn't really comment on it with another heroine. Probably the closest I'll get is The Eyre Affair, which keeps Jane as a character in her own story and adds the new heroine parallel to it. At any rate, there are so many creative people out there, maybe there will be a funny take on a modern heroine in Jane's place eventually.