Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker is nothing less than captivating. In Shoemaker’s first novel, she tells the bildungsroman story of Mr. Rochester, the complex, sometimes cruel albeit romantic figure from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. If Charlotte Bronte was alive, I cannot help but think that she would be pleased by how well Sarah Shoemaker was able to imagine and write Mr. Rochester’s story to compliment her own.
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In Mr. Rochester, the reader is presented with three “books” that tell Edward Fairfax Rochester’s life-story. The first book begins with a very lonely and emotionally neglected eight-year-old boy being sent away from everything he loves. The second book starts with an honest and optimistic young man eager to start his life and prove himself to his father. The third commences with a bitter and cynical Rake who feels doomed to live a loveless life. Thankfully, the novel concludes with Rochester finally receiving the love that has evaded him his whole life – of the honest, independent and intelligent Jane Eyre.
As a lover of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and many other old English authors, I approached Mr. Rochester with reservations since the voices and storytelling of those old English authors are vastly different from the modern American ones. Of course, the storytelling of Mr. Rochester is more modern, but not enough that I was constantly reminded of it. Shoemaker did a terrific job of staying true to the manner of storytelling of Bronte, who is credited with being the founder of private consciousness. Further, it’s clear that Shoemaker is well versed in the style of writing, the culture and the social norms of the time period. Through the research and experience, she wove a realistic and entertaining narrative that allows one to visualize every person and place, and emotionally connect to the main character.
It’s satisfying to have my questions regarding the mysterious Mr. Rochester answered, and understand just why Jane Eyre was so important to him. I was pleased that Shoemaker kept up with Bronte’s representation of Jane being of stronger mind than Mr. Rochester, despite them both having difficult lives, and that they both found the love and companionship that seemed out of reach.
I think readers will fall in love with Mr. Rochester, just as I have. Where many authors have failed to produce a prequel to classic literature, Sarah Shoemaker has succeeded.
Released on May 9, 2017, Mr. Rochester is available for purchase at any major retailer including Amazon.com.
BOOK REVIEW: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte published her famous novel, Jane Eyre, in 1837. Jane Eyre became a groundbreaking novel due to Bronte exploring Jane’s private consciousness, her strength, and her independence as a woman who was not interested in chasing or demanding the affection of a husband, as well as her exploration of classism, morality, sexuality and feminism.
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Jane Eyre follows Jane, an orphaned young lady who was brought up never feeling wanted and at times abused by her cruel relatives and indifferent household staff and boarding school mistress. Jane is sent to school where she finds more loss and hardship, but learns valuable lessons along the way and becomes more resolved to be independent, to make her own happiness, and to never be the victim. At 18, Jane is employed by Mr. Rochester, who despite his swift mood changes and at times rudeness and haughtiness, earns Jane’s love.
Just when you think all will be right and everyone will be happy, Mr. Rochester’s greatest secret and shame are revealed, forcing Jane to leave. When Mr. Rochester loses everything, including what keeps Jane and him apart, Jane comes back to find him. Seeing him humbled and free of everything that had caged him, Jane offers her heart and forgiveness.
Indeed, Bronte wrote a masterpiece in Jane Eyre. The complexity of her characters and the relationships between characters will forever captivate readers and inspire writers and readers alike for decades to come.
This review was first published in Families First Monthly.