My Plain Jane – Cynthia Hand – Jodi Meadows – Brodi Ashton

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2 and a half stars.

I loved the first book of the series, « My Lady Jane », an imaginative read, endearing and effortlessly funny.

This second book wasn’t quite up to my expectations. This off-handedly re-writing of Jane Eyre didn’t work much for me. In a way it was fun to compare the two stories (however I wonder how someone not totally familiar with « Jane Eyre » may really enjoy this one); on the other hand I was frequently pondering about the possibility that the authors’ didn’t like much the original novel (if funny, I for myself didn’t always enjoyed the twistings of a long time favourite book).

The ghost story was good and the reason I read this book with interest, even if I wasn’t always convinced by the characters and the jolly atmosphere. The idea of a « real » story including Charlotte Brontë as an intimate friend of Jane Eyre was clever and could have been really enjoyable.

Alas the story takes too much pains to be funny. The main distortion is made by adding new characters to the story, which was okay for me, but also by radically changing all the original characters’ personalities (even Charlotte Brontë’s, who’s suddenly a Jane Austen fan and Darcy’s groupie which is wrong and rather silly, especially knowing that Charlotte Brontë didn’t care for Jane Austen’s books). Jane is a petulant shallow young girl (Charlotte is the real heroin here), Rochester a caricature without any charm, Adèle a well loved child and not the poor superficial orphan despised by Rochester and all his clique. Miss Temple is just a so nice young woman. But the worst is certainly Helen: Helen Burn is a fundamentally important person  for Jane Eyre, a strong character, a sadly wise young girl, who embrace her fate with fatality and piety. Here, Helen is Jane’s side-kick, a very modern voice, supposed to be very funny. She is, sometimes, but not always, and I just couldn’t stomach the desecration. Charlotte’s character is stereotypical and rather antipathic.

Maybe « Jane Eyre » is too serious and intense a story to being making fun of? Or maybe I just couldn’t bear to see such an elegant story ransacked for fun? Or maybe the book wasn’t fun and clever enough…

In the end I had the vivid impression of an amateurish troupe of middle school kids making fun of a classic, repeating the same jokes on a loop, like saying that Jane is plain, Rochester too old for her, Charlotte short-sighted, her brother ackwark and foolish, and so on.

I’m still looking forward the next book, but if the fourth Jane is by chance Pride and Prejudice’s Jane… BEWARE!!