11 Novels Inspired By 'Jane Eyre' To Pick Up Instead Of Re-Reading Charlotte Bronte's Classic For The Tenth Time
Perhaps it's because I was named after Charlotte Brontë, or because I was particularly plain and morose as a teen, but I have always loved Jane Eyre. I love the melodrama and the gothic sense of impending doom. I love Jane and her stubborn independence. I love the deeply problematic romance with moody, unhelpful Mr. Rochester. I think it's vitally important to discuss the book's toxic British imperialism (and, to a lesser degree, its violently anti-French sentiments). And I think that it's a story worth revisiting today. Here are a few novels for Jane Eyre fans to read, from retellings to deconstructions to brilliant fanfictions.
These books look at Jane through both a lens of nostalgia and a lens of critique. Because yes, on the one hand, Jane is the forebearer to many of our well-written female protagonists today. She gets to be romantic and smart, average-looking and cynical, and she doesn't get married off to the rich asshole until she proves that she can be perfectly happy on her own. But on the other hand... Mr. Rochester and Jane don't exactly have the healthiest of relationships. And there's that whole wife-in-the-attic thing. So here are a few books that reinvent the Jane Eyre story, for fans and critics alike:
'Jane Steele' by Lyndsay Faye
What if Jane Eyre... but with more re-distribution of wealth? And also murder? Jane Steele follows our titular Jane as she escapes boarding school to right wrongs in London's seedy underbelly. When her aunt dies, however, Jane is drawn to Highgate House to see if she stands to inherit anything. That's where she falls for the mysterious Charles Thornfield. Now if she can only possess him without letting him in on her bloody, bloody past...
'Re Jane' by Patricia Park
Jane Re is an orphan. She's spent her life toiling for her strict uncle in Flushing, Queens, dreaming of a better life. So she's thrilled to take a job as an au pair to two Brooklynite English professors and their adopted daughter. But she soon finds herself growing closer to Ed, the father of the household — and then a death in the family throws her new life into chaos.
'The Madwoman Upstairs' by Catherine Lowell
Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family. She's also the supposed heir to a mysterious, priceless portion of the Brontë's literary estate — but Samantha has no real interest in her father's side of the family. She just wants to be a normal college student... until her past starts showing up on her doorstep. Now Samantha and her handsome professor have been pulled into a vast, cryptic scavenger hunt to uncover the secrets of her own family, using the writing of her most famous ancestors.
'Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre' by Tracy Chevalier
Jane Eyre has inspired countless of authors over the years, and Reader, I Married Him is a collection of some of the greatest Jane-based short stories out there. Specifically, these stories focus on that famous line, "Reader, I married him," using it as a spring board for tales of romance, marriage, dissatisfaction, and, of course, fierce female independence.
'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next is a literary detective, in an alternate world where classic literature makes up the bulk of pop culture (and also there are dodo birds and planes don't exist). But in all her years of detecting, Thursday has never had a case like this: Jane Eyre has gone missing from her own novel, and Thursday's going to have to jump directly into the book and solve this case from the inside-out in this delightfully absurdist retelling.
'Jane' by Aline Brosh McKenna, illustrated by Ramón Pérez
This gorgeously illustrated graphic novel places Jane as an art student in New York City, working her day job as a nanny to little Adele. But of course, Adele's father is the charming and enigmatic Rochester. Jane begins to fall for his sardonic wit, but every Rochester has a secret, and Jane doesn't know if she can trust this powerful, wealthy man to do what's best for her or Adele.
'My Plain Jane' by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton
Oh sure, you think you know the real Jane Eyre. But the original book barely even touches Jane's illustrious ghost hunting career. My Plain Jane is a wonderfully twisted take on the story, in which Jane (who can see ghosts, naturally) teams up with aspiring author Charlotte Brontë and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood for a Gothic-romance-meets-Ghostbusters extravaganza.
'Worlds of Ink and Shadow' by Lena Coakley
Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë has always made up stories together. They have entire fictional worlds, like the shining Verdopolis and the melancholy Gondal. When Branwell starts to lose his grip on reality, however, his sisters will have to weigh their fantasies against their brother's sanity—if their fictional characters will even let them go.
'Jane' by April Lindner
College dropout Jane Moore has taken a nannying job at Thornfield Park. She's not the type to get swept off her feet, and yet Jane is still drawn to her charismatic-yet-brooding employer, the world-famous rock star Nico Rathburn. Nico is right on the verge of a major comeback, except that a mystery from his past is threatening to unravel everything—including his burgeoning romance with Jane.
'Wide Sargasso Sea' by Jean Rhys
Already a modern classic at this point, Wide Sargasso Sea explores the Jane Eyre story from the perspective of the "madwoman" herself. This is a novel about young, beautiful Antoinette Cosway, who is sold into marriage to the proud Mr. Rochester. It's a nuanced portrayal of a woman losing her grip, and the traumatic forces that drive her there (namely, Mr. Rochester being a huge colonial prick).
'Romancing Miss Brontë' by Juliet Gael
Charlotte Brontë's novel has become a huge success. Suddenly, the shy and awkward young woman of the moors has been catapulted into London’s literary scene—where she finds that her publisher, George Smith, is an unusually handsome and intelligent young man. Drawing from the historical facts of Charlotte's life, Romancing Miss Brontë is both a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of Jane Eyre, and a torrid romance in its own right.