Charlotte Brontë’s great work is of course present on many a school and college syllabus. It is widely read and studied by pupils at older levels. In this little Barrington Stoke book Landman has set out on a notable task – to make the famous work accessible to younger readers who may not have the literary expertise needed to tackle the story in its original form. Such young readers may still benefit from an understanding of the novel, its characters and its ideas.
The task of adapting the masterwork for a new readership is far from simple. For example, Landman has felt obliged to use language appropriate to the period in which the book is set. But at the same time the language must not strike young readers as hopelessly archaic and alien. The same is also true of the social conventions of the time. Young readers must be led to understand such conventions and appreciate how they are applied to the lives of the protagonists without the book resorting to a didactic tone – more a history lesson than a novel.
There is of course a familiar objection to literary creations of the type Landman has attempted. The criticism is that the work is unduly compressed. Some significant episodes in the original text are glossed over in one line. The same criticism always arises when favourite works are adapted for TV or the cinema. On the whole however it is important to recognise the innovatory courage Barrington Stoke has demonstrated launching what we hope will become a series. The publisher seems to have identified a significant market niche. This reviewer has her own favourites that might be included in the series catalogue. No doubt all readers of this review will have their own mental lists.