A return to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights – Weighing on the sequels

I was downtown a couple of weeks ago looking for a pharmacy when I stumbled upon a tiny bookshop with big Sale signs plastered all over its windows. I went in, of course I went in, because well, I was on my own so I didn’t have to drag anybody with me and because it had been a while since I visited a bookstore and because…never mind, we don’t really need a reason now, do we?
As I made my way past the table in the middle and near the bookcases lining the wall, admiring all those books waiting to be taken home, I noticed two things:
1. The books were translations, mostly classics and romance (Dickens, Barbara Bradford Taylor, Jackie Collins among them).
2. Most of the books cost less than two US dollars and they were new and neatly wrapped in plastic foil.

Now I prefer my books in English if that’s the original language the author wrote them in but when I saw these two volumes, I conveniently ignored my preference and bought them. They were, after all, the sequels to two of my favorite classics, and English books are a lot more expensive here in Bucharest. I read the books one after the other and enjoyed them both.

JE Jane Rochester by Kimberly Bennett is the sequel to Jane Eyre. The book begins with a summary of the main events in Jane Eyre and continues with the story of the two main protagonists after their wedding.

Edward Rochester is nearly blind and missing a hand as a result of the terrifying fire that consumed Thornfield. Jane is now his wife, confidante, friend and caregiver. Their relationship is marred by Rochester’s demons – people and events from the past that seem to torment him, resulting in mood-swings and arguments with Jane. His passionate nature and Jane’s reserved one don’t seem to mingle very well. It is only in time and after a few soul-baring conversations that the two manage to truly understand each other. There are echoes of Jane Eyre – a mad woman, a love story, ghost-like visions and tragedy.

I found this story a bit stretched and I’m in two minds about it. Perhaps it was to be expected that the contemporary author would not follow in the same style as the original story. Still, the shade of modernism it brought to the old story made me think that “fifty shades of Jane” would have been a better title. What bothers me is the blurb which proclaimed this to be indistinguishable from the style of Charlotte Bronte. I don’t know if it’s a translation gimmick but I hardly read such boasts without a raised eyebrow. On the other hand, I appreciate that the author wanted to show us what happens after the happily-ever-after and that things are not as neat and romantic as the ending to Jane Eyre implies but somehow this book made me feel like I’ve stumbled onto something I wasn’t supposed to see. Despite all this, I enjoyed the story – Edward and Jane didn’t seem so very different from the characters I read in Jane Eyre and I was glad to read about them once again.

H H – The Story of Heathcliff’s Journey Back to Wuthering Heights by Lin Haire-Sargeant is, as you may have guessed by now, the sequel to Wuthering Heights.
I read Wuthering Heights a few years ago and immediately fell in love with the tormented souls of Catherine and Heathcliff. A love like that, strong, willful, obstinate and doomed to tragedy appealed to my need for drama, romance, and a Gothic setting. I always wondered what happened to Heathcliff after he left Wuthering Heights that fateful night and what kept him away from Cathy for so long.

Writing a sequel is tricky, but writing one nearly two hundred years after the original story is even more so.
I was captivated by the narrative told for the most part as a long letter from Heathcliff to his beloved, a day before he planned to come see her and ask her to marry him after which they would go and live together happy for all eternity.
The author reveals the story of Heathcliff’s absence, his rise to fortune and his education as a gentleman, and also the origins of his birth. In this way, it was a quite satisfying read because it answered many questions I had while reading Wuthering Heights. It is obvious, even through the layers of translation, that the author wanted to keep the writing as close to that specific period as possible (the 1800’s) and there is a melody to the words that, while not as perfect as in Wuthering Heights, it is somewhere in the vicinity.

Heathcliff’s benefactor, his education, his carefully constructed plans reveal a cunning nature, perhaps not entirely evil but driven and passionate. There was one moment where I absolutely hated him but considering I had the same feeling when reading Wuthering Heights I say that it was in keeping with the original.
What I found the most interesting was how the story was weaved, yes, that’s the word that comes to mind, in such a way as to include the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily, and even characters and events from Jane Eyre. I can’t say this book is on the same level as Wuthering Heights. When I started reading I told myself I should let go of such hope. But it did provide answers (not all of them) and did so in such a way that they seemed plausible (even if sometimes a bit too convenient) and I read it remembering how much I loved Wuthering Heights.

*I gave 3/5 stars to both books, although Heathcliff’s story deserves more, perhaps another half star.
*Read in February, 2016

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12 Responses to A return to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights – Weighing on the sequels

  1. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, Delia! I didn’t know that sequels of ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ had come out. Glad to know that both of them follow closely the style of the originals and you liked both of them. That bookshop sounds so wonderful! I also love discovering new bookshops like that – stumbling into them in a part of the city that we don’t frequent. Book-ish surprises are always wonderful 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      They did, and apparently there are more, which I would love to read.
      Jane Eyre’s Husband – The Life of Edward Rochester by Tara Bradley sounds intriguing and it has gone on top of my TBR pile. I also discovered a sequel to Wuthering Heights which has been written in 1977! And I thought this was a relatively new trend, the retelling of old classic stories…
      Yes, discovering new bookshops is always a joy – and that reminds me I should go out more. 🙂

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    I must admit to being a bit skeptical regarding sequels of this sort. Among other things sometimes I think that such great stories are better left as they are.

    On the other hand, if one does loves a story and characters I can understand the desire to delve back into them.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      I share your skepticism but, since I loved both books so much, I could not resist reading what happened next. Wuthering Heights in particular had so much drama and heartbreak… The trick is not to expect the same from the sequel but to read it as a completely new book (at least that’s what I tell myself).
      It is wonderful reading about the characters again, it’s like meeting dear old friends after a really long time. Would I like them just as much? Only one way to find out. 🙂 Something tells me though that no sequel will rival the original.

  3. Hi Delia, I am going to make a confession. I haven’t read ‘Jane Eyre’, AND ‘Wuthering Heights’. Which one do you think should I start first?

    And, I really liked your introduction. Stumbling upon new bookstores is awesome. I visited my local library for the first time last year, and a clearance sale was going on. I bought 14 books for Rs 140 (About 2 dollars.) Some of the books were printed even before I was born. But, I couldn’t contain my excitement, and executed a massive loot that day. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Deepika, you are forgiven. There’s still time for that. 🙂
      Both books are wonderful. I found Wuthering Heights more dramatic. I’d love to re-read them at some point, maybe I’ll do that before I tackle another sequel.

      I miss going to bookstores and just spending an hour or two there. Clearance sales are wonderful. You bought 14 books for 2 dollars each, right, not all of them for 2 dollars? Just checking if I understood right.

  4. English indeed. 🙂 And, please, please come to India.

  5. Maria Behar says:

    I first read the original novels in high school. I LOVED “Jane Eyre”, but HATED “Wuthering Heights”. Since high school, I have re-read both novels one or two times, and my feelings are still the same, except for the fact that I see Rochester’s character as darker than I did the first time I read it.

    I have mixed feelings about reading sequels to classics, as they are never as good as the originals, but I might give “Jane Rochester” a try. It sounds very interesting! Even the happiest of marriages is never totally smooth sailing, and it looks like the author of this sequel made Jane’s very realistic.

    Thanks for sharing!! Also, thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my Tuesday Intros post!! 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Maria,

      It’s true, the sequels are never as good as the originals but it’s nice to read about your favorite characters again, isn’t it?
      The author made Jane’s marriage very modern. Charlotte Bronte would probably roll in her grave. 🙂

      Thanks for returning the visit.

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