Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is dark. The new retelling by writer Aline Brosh McKenna and artist Ramon K. Perez, Jane, is just a bit darker in all the best ways. This graphic novel is an updated telling that helps clear up some parts of the original story to make them a bit more palatable to a modern audience.
After losing her parents at a young age, Jane does all she can to survive with her relatives. Searching for a way to save her dreams, she takes jobs on a fishing boat and saves her money to move to New York. Entering an art academy, she discovers that unless she gets a job she will loser her scholarship. Terrified to lose her position, she takes the first job she can find. Unaware that she is working for one of the biggest hedge fund managers in the country, Mr. Rochester, Jane takes a liking to his young daughter and falls into the role easier than the staff could have expected. However, she is not allowed to visit certain parts of the house and is expected to keep the young child seen but not heard. She becomes close friends with the brother of her employers’ deceased wife, Mr. Mason, and the two work together. In her continued attempts to show Mr. Rochester the importance of involvement in his daughter’s life, she and her employer appear to fall madly in love. This is before Rochester leaves to go on a work trip to Asia, requiring Jane to move in to care for his daughter and not telling her how long he will be away. Distraught, she is surprised when he returns suddenly. Things take a dark and unique turn.
Aline Brosh McKenna does a great job of giving us a more sympathetic Mr. Rochester, and does not require the use of a “crazy” wife in the attic, as in the original novel. There is something more interesting in it’s place. This graphic novel telling gives Jane Eyre some actual agency for once and allows her to make solid choices, rather than those of a woman with no power. She makes her own power.
Jane is a powerful retelling, and a great deal of fun to read. If you’re a traditionalist to the Jane Eyre novel, you might find yourself wrinkling your nose at some parts. If you’re more open to modern retellings, you’ll love it.
Jane is available September 13, 2017 from Archaia press.