I am such a big Jane Eyre fan, and I am happy to say I was not disappointed by this book!! I loved the story and the fact that the author took great pains to capture Charlotte Brontė's writing style, making this book feel like a continuation of Jane's "autobiographies" as she continues to tell the story of her life. Having read a couple of books with the set-up of Jane writing a "what-happened-next" story, I believe Joanna Campbell Slan has done the best job in approximating Charlotte Brontė's flowery prose and capturing the sensible, intelligent voice of Jane.
I think it is important to comment especially on the characterization of Jane and Rochester and how well their married life is captured- Jane is recreated almost perfectly, with all of her confidence and compassion, and she deals with the events calmly with "resources never suspected". I liked how the author has matured Jane as well, since she is married and a mother, with more responsibilities. Mr. Rochester has matured too, accepting his disabilities and willing to follow doctor's orders carefully to restore his eyesight. Even if it means letting Jane travel to London without him. I think the tenor of their married life in this book is perfect, and as loving and romantic as the original novel.
The story was a great character-driven mystery, with a wide choice of possible suspects, and subtle clues that were very hard to pick up on. I was really kept in the dark until the very end, where even when the matter seemed resolved, there was another twist. Adele was turned into some great comic relief, and I loved how forthright she was, despite everyone disparaging her French nature. This novel also incorporates some history and social discussions pertinent to Jane and Rochester's status and the time period the novel is set in. It is a subtle shift in tone from the original novel where the focus is on Jane's development and her struggles, to this new story that creates a Jane, who, having found herself, can now help others. There are wider responsibilities that Jane and Rochester face as a part of society and also landowners and Jane also has to face the ugly rumors circulated by the Ingrams about Rochester and their relationship. (I can't wait until Rochester hears about it!) All this adds more dimension to the story - setting up more themes to be explored in later installments of the Jane Eyre Chronicles. (Next one is reportedly called Death of a Dowager... Dowager Lady Ingram??? <-- pure speculation on my part!)
There is plenty of explanation and back story for readers who haven't read the original novel, or who have not read it in awhile, so it is easy to sit back and enjoy this layered and well-executed historical mystery. And fans of the original novel will appreciate the intelligence and care the author has taken to maintain the spirit of Jane.
(A copy of this novel was provided in exchange for an honest review)