by Eve Marie Mont
March 27, 2012
Mature Content: minor language and drinking
Source: purchased from independent bookstore
I love Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. So I was excited to read Breath of Eyre, and a little nervous as well. I think that Jane -- a plain looking orphan with a strong will and a rich inner life who ends up in love with her employer, a dashing yet troubled older man with a horrible secret -- can be a tough character to translate to modern times.
But Breath of Eyre is not a retelling. It's a very interesting hybrid of a book -- sort of paranormal, and kind of time-traveling. I'll try to explain:
My summary: Emma, whose mother died and father remarried, attends an all-girls boarding school in Massachusetts as a scholarship student. Emma daydreams about her tragically divorced English teacher and about Gray, the attractive son of her mom's college roommate. Grey attends Braeburn, a nearby boys' school, and dates the prettiest and richest of Emma's classmates. For her sixteenth birthday, Gray's mom gives Emma a copy of Jane Eyre, which she begins reading.
One night, Emma and her new roommate Michelle sneak over to Braeburn for a party. On their way back, Emma is struck by lightning. When she wakes up, she's Jane Eyre. She meets Mrs. Fairfax, who looks an awful lot like her French teacher at school. She meets Adele, Rochester's ward, who looks like Gray 's younger sister. Then she meets Rochester, who looks like ... Rochester. (Ha! I bet you thought I was going to say the English teacher. Or Gray.)
Emma is just beginning to adjust to her new reality when she wakes up in the present, in the hospital, confused about what's happened to her. She's not sure why can speak fluent French. She's sent to a psychiatrist. She feels more and more drawn to Grey. But she still thinks about Rochester. She finishes reading Jane Eyre, and isn't entirely satisfied with the ending. Emma's roommate, Michelle, is Haitian, and Michelle's aunt gives Emma the card of a voodoo spirit guide, printed with an incantation. She uses it and ends up back in Jane Eyre again. Like the fictional Jane, she ends up engaged to Rochester. The story then takes a bit of a strange turn, incorporating Emma's dead mother into the mix in a manner I'm still pondering. At this point, Emma must make a choice: will she stay in the past, or return to face her present?
My take: A Breath of Eyre is a complex and original story. Eve Marie Mont does an interesting thing by dropping a modern girl into Jane Eyre -- twice -- and having her try to make sense of it all. Emma is a strong, sympathetic protagonist and the book is filled with well-drawn secondary characters. Mont is an inventive and skillful writer -- I loved her description of Gray as looking like "a medieval monk trapped in the body of a Marine."
I also liked the way she blended in just a touch of the paranormal to explain the way that Emma is able to enter the world of Jane Eyre on two separate occasions. I'm not sure if it's true that being struck by lightning can result in strange new abilities, but ... why not? Works for me. I'm still not sure how I feel about the role played by Emma's dead mother, and I can't really explain without a spoiler. If you read the book, email me and let's talk!
Breath of Eyre includes an except from Mont's next book in the series, A Touch of Scarlet. It looks like Emma's going to be spending more time in the past. Seventeeth-century Boston, to be exact. I have to say, The Scarlet Letter isn't my favorite classic (especially when compared to the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen) but I've become enough of a fan of Eve Marie Mont's creative plotting and winning characters that I will definitely check it out!
YA Romantics Trivia:
In a nod to Jane Eyre, this 2007 YA fairy tale retelling featured a blind character with a dog named Pilot. Can you name the book?
If you want to enter my Dystopia Mania giveaway, you need to get your entries in by midnight tonight EST!
This one's on my To Read list, and I want to read soon -- I've got a mad rush of blog tour titles to read first, haha... Will def email to chat when I'm done ;o)ReplyDelete
I look forward to a nice spoilery chat!!!Delete
I definitely want to read this book. It sounds great. Awesome review. My answer to the trivia is Beastly by Alex Flinn ;)ReplyDelete
Garet -- let me know what you think. And of course you are right about the trivia!!!Delete
Definitely need to read A Breath of Eyre. I love the time travel to the past and I definitely want to know if Emma chooses the past or present. Sounds like a hard choice when you are drawn to two different people. I so need to get this book soon.ReplyDelete
Definitely check it out. It's really different and I enjoyed it!Delete
Wow. There's a lot going on in this book. I'm all about romance and tragedy and this book even has time travel! I suppose I'll have to read it...ReplyDelete
I think you should! Then tell me what you thought!!Delete
oh wow, great review! I have a review copy of this book and am now DYING to read it!ReplyDelete
Ashelynn @ Gypsy Book Reviews.
Can't wait to hear what you think!! let me know!!Delete
you totally could get a job writing blurbs for people :)ReplyDelete
That's so nice of you to say!!Delete
I actually like writing them. Weird, I know....
Seriously, if we all could just get paid a decent salary for reading books and writing blurbs like you, we would be well-off and contented.Delete
Wow, this book, according to your descrip, is not what I was expecting. Seems like a LOT going on. I love Jane Eyre as well, so this appealed to me, now I'm thinking I may need to check it out just because of the unique/weirdness of it! I'm going to feel really sorry if Emma keeps getting dumped back in old classics. The Scarlet Letter is definitely NOT a setting I would want to end up in:) Enjoyed your review Jen!ReplyDelete
Same - I was sure it was a retelling. But it was something else altogether.Delete
Yeah ... The Scarlet Letter. I remember reading it in 8th grade and it's really not my favorite. All that guilt and shame stuff. But I like her writing, so I will check it out!
This one has been on my list for a while. It sounds like it's quite a bit different than I thought it was going to be, but I will definitely still be reading it. I actually really liked The Scarlet Letter when I read it, but I love Dickens and it is similar as in someone dealing with terrible or dark things in life, but still coming out of it triumphant. Great review, by the way!ReplyDelete
Have you read Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson yet? I don't remember seeing a review from you. I just got it today from Amazon and am very excited to read it! I have heard great things about it, so I am hoping to not be disappointed! :)
No, I haven't heard of Edenbrooke. I'm going to check it out!!Delete
Ive had my eye on this one! Thanks for the review!ReplyDelete
I was a little scared of this one because I thought it was a modern-day telling of Jane Eyre--and so far my feeling on some of those has been mixed. I appreciate that they are trying to honor a classic by doing their own telling--with their own take. But I usually find myself saying that I would rather read the original.ReplyDelete
But this one seems to be different entirely. I think I will have to get this one.
I agree. I think fairy tale retellings are easier to pull off, because usually the fairy tales are sparser and can be embellished upon.Delete
JANE EYRE is one of my favourite classic reads. I was a bit leery of reading A BREATH OF EYRE before this. If it's not a strict re-telling I may be persuaded to give it a go.ReplyDelete
See that's how I felt when I thought it was a retelling: a little hostile. But no, it isn't! So give it a go and let me know what you think!Delete
I've never actually read Jane Eyre but I have seen like 8 versions of the movie! I was hesitant about this one in the first place, I like retelling but I don't usually like when a character is just dropped into a famous story. Anywho, it sounds even more bizarre than I imagined. Not quite sure if this ones for me.ReplyDelete
My favorite is the Orson Welles version and the brand new movie with Mia Wasikowska!Delete
I'm bad at trivias. I do understand the storyline of Breath of Eyre, but it sure sounds complex as the story progresses.ReplyDelete
That's okay -- Amy gets them all. I told her I'm going to make special, extra hard questions just for her :)Delete
I just won this book through Goodreads, and I can't wait to read it! Great review - it makes me sad that I've got a few books to read before I can crack this one. But I'll definitely email you once I'm done and we can dish! ;)ReplyDelete
Congratulations!! I never win those Goodreads contests.Delete
When you get to it, come back and tell me what you think!