Jane Eyre Sequels, Prequels, Spin-Offs, and Retellings
Since its publication in 1847, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre has inspired numerous adaptations--on the stage, on film, and most recently, in novel retellings and sequels. The characters of the original story--Jane, Rochester, Bertha, Adele--have so captivated readers that many hunger for continuing stories.
The following is a selection of sequels and prequels, retellings and reimaginings of the original novel Jane Eyre and the great author behind it, Charlotte Bronte. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, but a selection of the most popular and/or most widely available books.
Wide Sargasso Sea...Jean Rhys
Everyone knows that Bertha, the mad woman in the attic, is cra-zy! But how did she end up that way? Set in Jamaica in the 1830s, Rhys's novel explores the early relationship between Antoinette Cosway (Bertha) and her suitor, Rochester. Like Jane Eyre, it tackles women's issues, but with a decidedly different perspective. It's a haunting, compelling new take on the familiar story, and Rhys is ultimately fair to the characters, even making the unlikable ones sympathetic.
Adele, Grace, and Celine: The Other Women of Jane Eyre...Claire Moise
Moise's novel works on the premise that Celine did not die, but pretended to so that her daughter Adele could have a better life as an English lady. Celine keeps up a correspondence with Grace Poole over the years, learning of the mysterious occurrences at Thornfield Manor. Flash forward to WWI, when Adele is elderly and discovers her late mother's letters. Adele looks back on her life after the events of Jane Eyre, revealing the fates of the original characters. Read Moise's novel for fleshed-out portraits of the "other women" of Jane Eyre.
Jane Eyre's Daughter...Elizabeth Newark
Janet Rochester, the daughter of Edward and Jane, finds herself caught up in her own mystery at Highcrest Manor, the home of Colonel Dent. Caught between the love of two suitors, one dark and brooding, the other suave and charming, Janet explores her feelings and wonders what is hidden in the forbidden East Wing? Newark follows in the tradition of writing sequels to the classics, like the numerous follow-ups to Jane Austen's novels.
Rebecca...Daphne du Maurier
A classic in its own right, du Maurier's 1938 novel is heavily inspired by Jane Eyre and became her most famous novel. Newly married to Maxim de Winter, the second Mrs. de Winter quickly realizes that she cannot live up to her predecessor, the drowned Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers is a chilling villain as the housekeeper who has a strange hold over Manderley estate.
The Ivy Tree...Mary Stewart
Intricately plotted, Mary Stewart's novel is another work inspired by Bronte. Moody and atmospheric, it involves mistaken identity, impersonation, and deep loss. Set in northern England in the 1950s, it follows Annabel, a young lady in love with an older man with a mentally-ill wife. Fans praise its rich, poetic language and detailed plot and characters.
Jenna Starborn...Sharon Shinn
Shinn reimagines Jane Eyre as a science-fiction romance tale, with the titular character a bright but impoverished nuclear technician "half-cit" who falls for her employer, Everett Ravenbeck. Shinn follows her source closely, maintaining the original characters and events. In this sense, Jenna Starborn does not deviate much from Jane Eyre, although it employs several clever sci-fi twists (e.g., cyborgs, interplanetary travel, etc.). The heroine is not Ameletta's (Adele's) governess, but a scientifically-minded technician. The role of Ameletta's tutor is taken by Janet Ayerson, whose personal story veers from the original novel but shows another possible fate for Jenna (and echoes Jane Austen). Jenna even addresses her "Dear Reeder," a high-tech recording device that she uses as a digital journal. Jenna Starborn will appeal to science-fiction fans with an interest in classic literature, who like the idea of Jane Eyre in space.
Jane Slayre...Sherri Browning Erwin/Charlotte Bronte
If you frequent bookstores, you've most likely seen the quirkily popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (slated to become a film). The spoof has spawned a series of books taking works of classic literature (Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters) and tweaking them with macabre monsters and bloody battles. Finally, it's Jane Eyre's turn. Interspersed in the original story is the heroine's struggles to vanquish vampyres. Jane, meet Buffy. Credit (or blame) the series on the wildly popular Twilight books and a resurging interest in vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other mutant baddies.
Jane Eyre is retold for a young adult audience in this new story. Its tagline, if you will: What if Jane Eyre fell in love with a rock star? Orphaned college student Jane Moore must take on a nanny job for pop star Nico Rathburn. Fans of Bronte's novel will know what to expect, but the tale of forbidden romance and haunting secrets of the past will surely entrance new teen readers.
Rochester: A Novel Inspired by Jane Eyre...J.L.Niemann
Rediscover Jane Eyre...from Edward Rochester's perspective. Niemann takes on Rochester's dark, brooding, Byronic character and his all-consuming love for the meek, plain governess. Expect sensuous, passionate language in this masculine retelling, the first in a planned trilogy.
Jane Eyre's Husband: The Life of Edward Rochester...Tara Bradley
Even purists will likely appreciate how Tana Bradley’s Jane Eyre's Husband: The Life of Edward Rochester retains the spirit of the original Brontë classic, deftly tracing Edward’s life from birth to death. The pre–Jane Eyre section reveals his lonely childhood, his bitter relationship with his father and brother, and his years wasted looking for the meaning of life in all the wrong places. The section that corresponds with Jane Eyre casts familiar events in a new light; especially harrowing is the in-depth look at the suffering Rochester endured from being blinded and maimed by the fire. Finally, the post–Jane Eyre section follows the happily married couple into their twilight years as well as giving life to each of their children. This section is not without heartbreak, either, as it explores all the natural ups and downs of life. Fans of Jane Eyre will enjoy the fleshed-out background stories for supporting or enigmatic characters (Grace Poole and Dr. Carter, for instance). Particularly poignant is Adele’s arc; she transforms from a small, needy child to a sensible young woman, although she still struggles with painful revelations about her mother and with her uncertain status in the Rochester family. Bradley’s retelling shows respect for the original novel while providing fans a richly drawn story full of new insights and characterizations.
Spin-Offs and Other Bronte-Related Tales
The Eyre Affair...Jasper Fforde
The first novel in the literary romp that is the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair revolves around, you guessed it, Jane Eyre. Thursday Next is a literary detective in an alternate-reality England, able to leap in and out of classic novels and poems. And the villainous Acheron Hades has just kidnapped the titular character of Charlotte Bronte's beloved book. If anything happens to the original manuscript of a novel, every single copy on the planet will be similarly affected, so Thursday must enter the story herself to prevent Jane from becoming a victim of literary homicide. Fforde's novel is brimming with sly humor and literary allusions, a treat for any bibliophile!
Becoming Jane Eyre...Sheila Kohler
Kohler delves into the world of Charlotte Bronte and her remarkable family, making connections between the author and her literary heroine Jane Eyre. As the novel starts, Charlotte's father is recovering from eye surgery and the Bronte family is suffering hard times. Discouraged by the rejection of her novel The Professor, Charlotte explores her own feelings of passion as she writes the novel that could lift her out of obscurity. Largely autobiographical, Jane Eyre echoes major events of Charlotte's life: sickness and death at a charity school, the experiences of a governess, a young man's fall into dissolution, and a lowly woman's pining for an older man. Kohler reveals the passion and struggles of Charlotte and her sisters, offering some new insights into Jane Eyre as well.
Jane Airhead...Kay Woodward
This young adult novel features Charlotte, a thirteen-year-old girl so obsessed with Jane Eyre that she longs to live in a Yorkshire manor and find a suitable Mr. Rochester for her mother to marry. She thinks she's found the perfect man--a dark, brooding French professor--but will Charlotte come to regret her choice? A light and funny read overall, Jane Airhead delights in its many allusions to Bronte's work and offers a charming glimpse of preteen life. It may inspire some of its younger readers to check out Jane Eyre and other classics, which is never a bad thing!