With Jane Austen sequels proliferating, it’s about time someone created a sequel to Austen’s rival Charlotte Brontë! In this sequel to Jane Eyre, young Janet Rochester is consigned to Highcrest Manor and the guardianship of the strict Colonel Dent while her parents journey to the West Indies. As she struggles to make a life for herself guided by their ideals, she is caught up in the mysteries of Highcrest. Why is the East Wing forbidden to her? What lies behind locked gates? And what is the source of the voices she hears in the night? Can she trust the enigmatic Roderick Landless or should she transfer her allegiance to the suave and charming Sir Hugo Calendar? Riding her mare on the Yorkshire moors, holding her own with Colonel Dent, or waltzing at her first ball, Janet is a strong and sympathetic character, and like her mother, she will need all her courage ...
Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark: Coming Out in September by SourceBooks
Reviewed by Lady Anne
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when we read a book we love with characters that become friends, we wish to continue the relationship. Thus the frequency of sequels, prequels, and variations on the theme that are books about Jane Austen as well as about, most notably, the Darcys and the imagined lives they led after the close of Pride and Prejudice.
Jane Eyre’s Daughter is an example of this genre. Young Janet Rochester is a somewhat sulky 16 year old, jealous of her father’s love for her mother and afflicted with some Freudian-inspired issues. She fancies herself isolated in her family, and perhaps she was, as she is left behind when her parents and brother go off, first to the West Indies to resolve some problem on the plantation there, and then to visit China and the countries in the South Pacific. She and we are apprised of this venture the day before Janet is sent off to school, where she is comfortable enough, although she raises some question about one of the teacher’s sexual proclivities. A bruising rider, she chases down a runaway horse belonging to another student, and thereby meets the brother and sister who have been the tenants in Thornfield Hall during the family’s absence. When her schooling concludes, she goes to live at the home of Colonel Dent, whom her parents had named as a guardian should they not return from their journey, (she does hire a companion to preserve the proprieties) and encounters several puzzles: a mysterious secretary, inexplicable comings and goings in the night, and questions about the Colonel as well as the tenants of Thornfield. And then she receives word that her parents’ ship was lost at sea.
There is little of Jane and Mr. Rochester in the book; the plot could have stood on its own devices, a somewhat predictable but very pleasant story of an interesting young woman coming into her own. Young Janet Rochester, when she stands up for herself, draws on her memories of her father. But her memories are not particularly familiar to those of us who also have memories of Mr. Rochester. At least she is far more interested in clothes and society than her mother was, and while mildly scholarly in her bent, she is definitely not so high-minded as her mother so famously was.
There is some unnecessary introduction of sexual depravity at the edges of the story; Jane’s companion escaped from her relatives into Jane’s hire because of the uncle’s pawing, and the Thornfield tenants, brother and sister, were incestuously involved, which made her brother’s designs on Janet a most unpleasant development for the sister. But these were not necessary, nor did either advance the plot. Colonel Dent’s rigid, if misguided, sense of propriety and those secrets he kept were far better done, and were great plot movers.
Jane Eyre’s Daughter is a pleasant read , a friendly coze in the mid-to-late- Nineteenth Century. It will not give the avid Jane Eyre fan much in the way of seeing Jane in later life, but young Janet becomes a strong and interesting heroine in her own right.
About Lady Anne:
A confirmed Janeite and co-founder of Janeites on the James (our Jane Austen group), an expert on all things Georgette Heyer and the Regency Era, a lady well read and well bred, Lady Anne is known for her discerning eye for both literature and her breath-taking garments made by a select mantua maker. Cloth'd and coifed, Lady Anne knows few equals, and when she enters a room she is a commanding presence. She is also Ms. Place's special friend and confidante.