I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Dark Companion

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Dark Companion
by Marta Acosta

Plot Summary:
When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove.
Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.
The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member. 
Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?

Expectations:  Going in, I knew this was a retelling of Jane Eyre, so I was intrigued by the idea of shifting the "Thornfield" portion of the novel into the "Lowood" portion as the synopsis seemed to indicate.  I figured Jane's youth and inexperience would come more into play, and Dark Companion would play up the Gothic traditions more.  I was also thinking that since this is a YA paranormal romance novel, this might be the first book in a planned trilogy. *hopes*

I was suitably intrigued by the Janian aspect of the novel.  Dark Companion did not so much rehash the plot of Jane Eyre but weaved its plot points into this story, creating something very new.  Where retellings of Jane Eyre are interesting to me in how they update or re-imagine the story, Dark Companion was much more of it's own story with a homage to Jane Eyre as well as other Gothic literature.  In fact I was delighted to read that the secret of Birch Grove was similar to the main plot of a fantastic Gothic short story called "Blood Disease" by Patrick McGrath.  I'm not sure if that story was actually an influence, but from the quotes heading each chapter, the author is obviously acquainted with many Gothic stories.  

I think what stood out about this novel is the development of Jane Williams as a disadvantaged girl, going after the opportunities to make something of her life.  With her Helen Burns equivalent/inspiration Hosea, I did wish there was more explanation of why he was so positive, practical and upbeat in such rough surroundings.  The other side characters were interesting, and the wittiness of the some of the characters made for some good laughs.  The male love interests were not as compelling a character as Jane, however, and I felt like the main focus of the book was more on the women.  The novel is intensely atmospheric in the approved Gothic tradition, and I loved the maturity of the text in addressing issues such as sex, drugs, bigotry,  and poverty.  Overall, this novel seemed a particularly well developed Gothic coming-of-age story with the touches of Jane Eyre a joy to happen across.

(Review copy from NetGalley)

First book of ten in the 2012 Books of Eyre Reading Challenge

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  1. I have not read Jane Eyre, but I have watched the most recent rendering of it (in film). I love how this book sounds though, and shares a similarity to say, the Series of Unfortunate Events in that the main character is an orphan and is going to stay in a mysterious place. ANYWAY! Yes, I will definitely be on the lookout for this in the stores :)

    I'm also going to look up Blood Disease, hehe. What gruesome title. "Hey, what're you reading?" "Blood Disease"

    Awesome review!

  2. Thank you for commenting! Ooh loved the new film!! I think that's a good way to get into the story, but the original book is really good too, so I hope you get a chance to read it. And I hope you enjoy Dark Companion too! It was a great read.

    LOL, Blood Disease is pretty gruesome! I read it in a collection of Gothic short stories, cleverly called "The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales". :D

  3. I wanted to first thank you for the follow @ http://twistingyourmindonewordatatime.blogspot.com and to let you know that I am now following your blog as well.

    This sounds like an interesting story. I am very partial to Jane Eyre, so a book that cleverly weaves elements of it into its storyline is definitely worth checking out. Great review!

    1. Thank you for the followback and commenting! I am glad to hear from another Jane Eyre fan. :) I hope you enjoy Dark Companion!

  4. Think that it is time for me to reread Jane Eyre! Thanks for the reminder!

    1. It is time for me too! :D Thanks for commenting!

  5. Hey lady! :)

    Thank you so much for following my at http://betweenthebind.blogspot.com - I'm so excited to have followed you back! Jane Eyre was my favorite book for years and years and is still my favorite classic. So thrilled to know we have similar tastes. :)

    Keep in touch!
    Jenna Lynne @ Between the Bind

    1. Awesome! I'm glad to meet another Jane Eyre fan! Thanks for the follow back! :)

  6. Very awesome review! This one wasn't on my radar so I'm glad you found it. I can now add it to my Jane Eyre list! :)