I have to start this review with a confession. I am not a fan of Jane Eyre, never have been. There, I’ve said it, a terrible literary admission. So, on receiving this book for review my heart kind of sank. However,… what Patrice Lawrence has done with this book was, for me, nothing short of miraculous. This abridgement of the classic is by no means a ‘dumbing down’. It is a retelling where the beauty of Bronte’s language is highlighted and the story clarified. Somehow, the simplicity brings the very best elements of the literature to the fore.
As a young reader, I found Jane’s decisions irritating. Mr Rochester was cruel, unlikeable and distinctly unattractive. I couldn’t understand the reasons behind the actions that took the plot forward and I hated the disparaging way that women were treated and the way in which difference was regarded. I knew the story had been written in another time but I found the cruelty too difficult to get past and so I dismissed the whole thing.
In this abridgement, I found that Patrice Lawrence had managed to recognise and address many of the issues whilst at the same time capturing the essence of the original book. In this version the simplicity means that the very bones of the original story are highlighted, the neatness of the original writing and the beautiful language are at the front and centre of the book and somehow the very ‘Bronteness’ shines through. All the things that I found irritating, grating and unbelievable as a young reader are there, but set in context and acknowledged in that context.
This adaptation of Jane Eyre is a clever and careful introduction to an important classic for young readers. It is perfectly pitched to introduce a great work of fiction and a time in history to those who may not be quite ready for the full version. Oh, and Reader, thanks to Patrice Lawrence, I have rediscovered Jane Eyre and found the beauty within it.