Jane Eyre: a Retelling by Tanya Landman
|Jane Eyre: a Retelling by Tanya Landman|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A spot-on visit to Jane Eyre's late-teenaged home for readers with mixed reading abilities. Reader, I loved it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: January 2020|
|Publisher: Barrington Stoke Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
A young woman, fresh from living with horrid relatives who could care less about her, and years in a dreary school, moves into Thornfield Hall with only one intent – to have something like the life she wants – and with only one job, to tutor a young half-French girl, whose father is almost always absent. When he does turn up he seems to be dark, brooding and troubled – but that's nothing compared to the darker, more broody and even more troubled secret in the house. Yes, if you know Jane Eyre then you know the rest – but if you don't, for whatever reason, this is a wonderful book to turn to.
In my more naive moments, I've sometimes thought how easy it might be to take a classic and redact it, abridge it for the younger audience. Of course that's rubbish – you have to get the very sense and essence of the original across, otherwise you might as well offer a 'York Notes' styled summary. And I have to admit that I've not read the Bronte, but I am quite of the opinion that this grabs the essence of the original and slathers it on. Which raises things to note in this edition for the young reader.
First, it doesn't start with any discussion of how it's a period piece – how the clothes, habits and manners of the period are different to now. That's because Bronte didn't include them, for the very simple fact it was a contemporary work. But you might expect a little guide to the young to let them know we're in a more rarefied time in these pages. Secondly, it features more myth and religion than I expected – from the very God-fearing mate of Jane in the school, to talk multiple times from her pupil's father of her being a sprite or one of the 'little people'. I doubt a book written in 2020 would allow itself to have that as a secondary subject.
But the main subject is of course the relationships between Jane and the other occupants of the Hall, and once again the book does these very well. Here they seem perfectly suited to the target audience, both conveying full-on adult emotions and the helpless response in the light of them that Jane at times provides. But this is where I need to discuss that target audience further, for this is a Barrington Stoke book. Now, these are our go-to people when it comes to books specially produced for people with reading issues such as dyslexia. They've long had the science of how to present writing for that specific audience, and they've long had the artistry to go with that, and create a perfect package.
And I think this is just about a perfect package, too. While Barrington Stoke offer so many original texts, this look at a classic will be welcomed by many – whether they have different abilities where books are concerned, whether they just want a quick revisit of a childhood favourite, or whether they're revising for an exam concerning this as a set text at school. To close the detail with the intended readers in mind, this is deemed to have the content and subjects right for a teen audience, but one for those who have a reading age closer to that of nine. But just as that implies, I think this is not to be sniffed at by anyone over that younger age – the gothic frisson of the story is not really teen-only, and this story at least is shown to be one that will appeal to nearly any reader. Reluctant readers will find themselves speeding through the very short chapters, and before long they will have a piece of the literary canon under their belts. That can only be a good thing.
And if you still think works like this should not be adumbrated like this – just remember the one quote you know from this book. Yep, short and snappy, isn't it? This does not suffer one whit for being reduced down to a child-friendly size.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Adults reading this may well want to know about how Jane Eyre came about - Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life by Lyndall Gordon goes one further and shows how Charlotte herself came about. As for this audience, One Shot by Tanya Landman was a fine work too.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jane Eyre: a Retelling by Tanya Landman at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Jane Eyre: a Retelling by Tanya Landman at Amazon.com.
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