Thursday, July 29, 2021

Review: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

The moment she released his hand -- a hand she'd clutched like a lifeline all the way from the church to the room on the third floor -- their romance had ended. Their friendship, too, by the look of it.

I love me a good retelling and Matthews' gender bent imagining of Jane Eyre is a wonderfully fun, Gothic-y  read that takes some of the expected, beloved moments of the classic novel and mixes in new, surprising ones.

John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews
Perfectly Proper Press, 2021
Review copy via NetGalley for blog tour

Our eponymous hero, John Eyre, has a background very similar to Bront├ź's Jane, including a dead Helen and a teaching job for some mysteriously acquired wards. He arrives at Thornfield rattled by the ghosts of his past, disturbed by the heavy mists that surround everything, and edgy from his increasing laudanum use. But when he meets the mistress of Thornfield, Bertha Mason Rochester, he's mesmerised by her fierce impatience, boldness, and worldly curiosity.

Normally shoving a male-identity into something that was female-identified would irritate me, but I found Matthews handling of it to be interesting, especially as she didn't water down any of Bertha's power. John felt very much a kind of Jane, and Bertha had the bold, brash temperament of Rochester. 

Matthews' Bertha was the highlight of this book: while I'm a devoted fan of Bertha by way of Wide Sargasso Sea, I'll also take this iteration of her. Here, Bertha's life is such that she could easily be accused of being mad; instead of racism and patriarchy being the impetus, Matthews imagines something more supernatural as provoking her decisions and behavior.

I confess that I've never "gotten" the romance of Rochester in Jane Eyre (seriously, what is romantic about that man?!) but Matthews convinced me of the intensity felt by Bertha and John -- and even more, she convinced that I should want a HEA for them. Both ultimately wanted a happy partnership with someone, built on trust and respect, and it was easy to see how each could give that to the other, if they could just figure their way around all the completely freaky stuff happening at Thornfield. 

Reader, they eventually do and I loved every page of the journey.

1 comment :

  1. Lovely review, Audra. I am glad you enjoyed this retelling too.