Monday, October 10, 2011

"Rochester" by J.L Niemann Review

My first experience with this Jane Eyre adaptation came around two years ago, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, I believe that I was much too young to stumble on this book at the time. Yes, it is a literary derivative technically based on the '06 adaptation of Jane Eyre rather than the novel itself, but it roams decidedly off of the beaten path.

I can start by saying that the book is beautifully written. Whoever our author is (whether J.L be male or female), they are certainly skilled with a pen. The dictional and grammatical beauty of the novel can't be denied. There is such artistic ability in the way the author manipulates words to provoke emotion in the reader. I've always been a sucker for descriptive writing. It paints a mental image; brings the story before me in lifelike clarity. J.L Niemann does just that. 

But can I say that this adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel is faithful? Absolutely not. I could say (as I said above) that it roams off the beaten path, but it is so very different from the original that it essentially creates a path of its own. In fact, this book is a completely different story with no actual resemblance to Jane Eyre other than the names of the characters and the location. Sure, there are a few borrowed lines here and there, but other than that the plot of this novel takes Jane Eyre into a completely different realm that Charlotte Bronte would never have envisioned (interpret the latter comment in whatever light you wish). Whereas other spin-offs were actually measurable with the source material, the events in Rochester are unable to be matched to those in Jane Eyre

There are details in this novel that are much too uncharacteristic of the Jane that Charlotte created centuries ago. Even Rochester himself is made into a different man. These alterations are not so much because of changes to the essences of the characters, but rather the actions they perform. The sexuality of Rochester is so blatant that it takes away the believability of the story. Rather than taking Jane Eyre and turning it into a autobiographical account of the novel through Rochester's eyes, Niemann rearranged everything and made the novel into a story dwelling much too heavily on Jane and Rochester's sexual intrigues. The descriptiveness that so captivated me in the first few pages of the novel metamorphosed into the book's own worst enemy, and in truth, by the time I was done with it I felt as if I had just witnessed literary pornography.  

Am I too young to read something so sexually advanced? You could argue "yes" and I might actually agree with you. However, I read Jane Eyre's Husband without a problem, and that too had descriptive sexuality. The difference between the two spin-offs is vital, though. In Jane Eyre's Husband, Tara Bradley's descriptions of Jane and Rochester's sexual pursuits only take place after the wedding, therefore preserving the piety that Charlotte Bronte's Jane was meant to have. Though the characters in Rochester didn't indulge in "the real deal", sexual activity was abundant. Let's be honest with ourselves. Do you think that the real Jane, the one who wouldn't even allow Rochester to take her into his arms after the discovery of his wife, the one that hesitated to even shake his hand, would give Rochester a hand job or let him even put a finger on the buttons of her nightgown (much less slip his hand under it)? NO. 

Perhaps it is the Jane Eyre puritan in me, but I see no value in saying that a book is "based" on another book and then making it into something that has no resemblance to the source material whatsoever. However, there is a slight internal battle within me. Though I criticize this book as decidedly unfaithful, when I examine it independently (without trying to compare it to the original novel), it isn't all that bad. The problem with that is that you have to recreate the characters all over again and imagine them as completely different people than they were before. If you're a diehard Jane Eyre puritan, you might not want to trouble yourself with the discomfort. In that case, I wouldn't suggest you read the book. It would only anger you, or at best disappoint you. However, if you're an inventive reader that thinks you can take the elasticity with which J.L Niemann stretches the original novel, then knock yourself out. It might not be too bad. 

Where am I? My opinion is undecided. This is only the first installment of a three-part series. I thirst for part two not so much because part one was tantalizing, but because I wonder if it might make me love it more or like it less. Right now I'm in that strange and uncomfortable place in between, almost as if I'm sitting on the crease between two seats rather than in one or the other. J.L Niemann might be onto something, but the risk is huge and the heights are great. Rochester could either take a steep fall or an atmospheric flight. 

Have any of you read it? If so, what do you think?


  1. I'm with you on this. It's a very good book, and in some instances, I liked how things were turned around (read: the relation with the Rivers siblings - much more plausible), but the problem is with the sex. There's way too much of it. While Rochester can hardly be described as a saint, I really doubt he was petting Blanche Ingram! When I read this novel, I started out absolutely LOVING it and couldn't put it down, because it was amazing. Then the scene after the fire happened (my reaction: "WTF?!") and it went downhill from there. If it had been kept as sexual TENSION, it would have been fantastic, but when it descended into exchanging bodily fluids, it was just too much. Like you say, Jane Eyre's Husband kept the bodily fluids on the right side of the marital bed. Still, I'm looking forward to reading book two. I mean, once the two get married, any sex they have should be more palatable, right? :)

  2. I agree. The whole inclusion of the Rivers' was a smart play. I also liked seeing the cute little romance between Diana and Eshton develop towards the end.

    The whole Blanche thing angered me. It's one thing to by physically involved with Jane (even though that was highly exaggerated), but having him kiss Blanche put him in an even worse light.

    I'm almost scared to see what book two will do. The marriage will be broken up, but the way things look now I wonder how Niemann will conduct the "leaving scene" portion. Hmmm....

  3. Once I decided to read the book as being inspired by Jane Eyre I quite enjoyed it. J.L. (she's a woman) has a flair for writing and the first part especially was really good.

    The characters were very off though. Edward was kind of recognisable, but Jane had undergone a character transplant entirely.

    Despite myself I will probably read the next book...

  4. I thought about it after writing the post and it seems more like a woman wrote it. But your comment on Jane's transformation is exactly what I was trying to get at. It's just not the same person. There's some mysterious kind of appeal that the book has, however.