‘Fess up. Who’s read Fifty Shades of Grey? Or perhaps I should ask, who hasn’t read it? Remember the kid in class who always had their hands up high because they knew the answer? Right now, that’s me. As in, I know the answer and the answer is me. No, I have not succumbed to the phenomenon that is 50 Shades and I really don’t care one way or the other. I’m just not interested. It took me ages to get around to the Twilight series (I was light years behind everyone else and no better read after I’d finally caught up…) – my son would say it like so: “Meh”. That pretty much sums it up for me.
So, when I was asked to read an erotic re-write of one of my favourite novels ever, I surprised myself by saying “yes”. I actually agreed to read a “racy retelling” of … Jane Eyre. My English grandmother, if I had one, would probably say it like this: “Heavens to Betsy, you’re what?” Pan MacMillan has just – yesterday – published Jane Eyre Laid Bare by debut novelist Eve Sinclair, a book which is set to raise a few eyebrows and generate a few embarrassed titters. I wouldn’t know yet…I’m still waiting for it to get here.
Here’s an insight:
It’s 1847 and Jane Eyre, an innocent eighteen-year-old, is desperate for experience when she meets her employer, the handsome, brooding Mr Rochester, who soon begins to confide in her about his dark past. But Jane has a vivid imagination and needs of her own. She soon comes to realise that Thornfield Hall is a much more sensually arousing place than she had first assumed.
She finds herself embroiled in a passionate, sexual, sensual romance with Rochester. But his insatiable appetites and increasingly dark fantasies eventually prove too much for Jane.
When the secret of Thornfield Hall is finally revealed, Jane is faced with the terrible truth of why she can never marry Rochester. Instead must break his spell and escape him to preserve her own sanity, or stay and be forever ruined.
Goodness me, what have I let myself in for? I find myself in a dilemma here because part of me is intrigued and part of me doesn’t want to see Jane Eyre turned into fan fiction. It’s such a beautiful, passionate book full of sexual tension … will exploring that tension undermine it?
Fan fiction leads to interesting debate. Should the classics be left alone? Or do they help keep the classics alive? Do they bring much-loved characters back into the limelight? I think some go too far – zombifying Pride and Prejudice is one example – but when it’s done well, it can renew interest in the originals. What do you think?
As for Jane Eyre Laid Bare, I’ll let you know. Here’s a reading from it just to whet your appetite.