Review – Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

A gorgeous, deft literary retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s beloved Jane Eyre–through the eyes of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself.

“Reader, she married me.”
For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker’s rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward’s eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.

But much as he longs to be accepted-and to return to the home where he was born-his father has made clear that Thornfield is reserved for his older brother, Rowland, and that Edward’s inheritance lies instead on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica. That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and not long after his arrival, Edward finds himself entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town’s ravishing heiress, Antoinetta Bertha Mason.

Eventually, after a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain, young governess who will teach him how to love again.

It is impossible not to watch enthralled as this tender-hearted child grows into the tormented hero Brontë immortalized-and as Jane surprises them both by stealing his heart. MR. ROCHESTER is a great, sweeping, classic coming-of-age story, and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë’s original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:
Mr. Rochester

My Review:

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

Little did I know, decades ago, when I happened upon an old black and white movie about a governess who fell in love with her mysterious employer, that it would lead me to a lifelong love affair with Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre.  I have read the book countless times, and collected and watched all the movie versions I could acquire, always looking for the “perfect” adaptation.  Over the years, the dialogue from my favorite scenes has become imprinted in my mind, and still has the power to bring me to tears.  Yet, I’ve always been perplexed.  Why do I love Rochester?  He was hot and cold, sometimes even cruel, and, of course, there’s his secret in the attic.  But I did love him, and I wanted him to win Jane and live happily ever after.  When I heard of this novel, which told his life story from his viewpoint, I knew I had to read it.  Quite honestly, I did not have high expectations.  Holy Thornfield, was I wrong!  I’m sharing my thoughts of this book, assuming that anyone reading will have read the original Jane Eyre, or, at the very least, watched a thorough adaptation.  If you haven’t, and don’t like spoilers, please don’t read further.

Edward Fairfax Rochester is the younger son of a wealthy businessman and landowner.  He never knew his mother, who died after his birth.  His father largely ignored him, as did his older brother, except for an occasional cuff to the head.  The only kindness Edward knew was from servants, and his happiness came from roaming his beloved home, Thornfield Hall, and its grounds.  Even that was taken from Edward, when at only eight years old, he was sent off to live with a tutor and to begin his education.  From there, Edward served an apprenticeship, and then attended Cambridge.  At that point, Edward’s father deemed him ready to take over the family business interests in Jamaica, which were to be his inheritance, as his older brother will inherit Thornfield.  His father also makes it clear that he wants Edward to marry his partner’s daughter.  When Edward meets the beautiful and seductive Bertha Mason, he is more than willing to marry her, little knowing the disastrous effect it will have on his future.

MR. ROCHESTER is absolutely brilliantly written.  The story of Edward’s life is told consistently with what we are privy to in Jane Eyre, yet the details are filled in via the author’s imagination in a way that is totally believable.  All of the life events lead up to Edward returning to Thornfield and meeting Jane for the first time.  I expected to see all the dialogue from the original book, but that’s not the case, only portions of the conversations appear here as well.  Ah, but those insights into Edward’s mind – they are so revealing  and perfectly explain his hot and cold emotions, his actions, and his sometimes cruel manner.  I totally bought into his motivations.  Author Sarah Shoemaker also devised an extremely clever plot twist which is totally new to this story, but is so seamless that it’s nothing short of magnificent.  I only had one small disappointment in reading this book, and that was when Jane returns to Rochester for the final time.  This meeting is condensed down to one day, and less than two pages, and doesn’t mirror the meetings in the original book, which includes Jane coaxing him to dinner, combing his hair, and then teasing him about her marriage proposal. Overall, MR. ROCHESTER feels true to the original Jane Eyre, and is a truly satisfying read which gains a place on my keeper shelf.  There is a lovely epilogue, which only makes me want to read Jane Eyre again, this time with a copy of MR. ROCHESTER alongside to double the enjoyment of my all time favorite novel.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


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