Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jane Slayre, by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin


I love classic literature. I also love reading books from the horror genre. So when the fad came about to do mash-up type re-imagining books consisting of the two genres, I instantly became enchanted. Jane Slayre is just such a re-imagining. It takes the classic story of Jane Eyre and adds vampires, zombies, and werewolves. The plot is the same as the original; you still have poor waifish Jane, the horrid Reeds, mysterious Mr. Rochester, and poor maligned Grace Poole. But you experience it in a new light. It is like what happens when Tim Burton directs a well known children’s story into a new movie version.

As with any new genre that quickly gains fashion, some books fall flat, while others show superiority. I find that Jane Slayre outshines many other books in this mash-up genre, because it is a true re-imagining. There are not just casual references of vampires, Jane is raised with them. The supernatural element helps mold the familiar story in such a unique way, the reader forgets that the story is familiar at all. It truly is like reading a brand new story, as told in the Victorian style. This is not your post-Twilight romantic vamp pulp fiction, and it is not your high school English teacher’s beloved Bronte. It is just so much more.

I loved the fact that Jane is such a strong character, something a bit more subtle in the original work, but still present. And the love between Jane and Rochester is palpable, as in the original. And I love that the typically sensual nature of vampires does not come into play, leaving the story as pure and Victorian as ever. The tale is dark and brooding, and I believe Bronte would approve of this version (while Mary Shelley would be pea green with envy).

What I love best about this book is how it made me want to revisit the original tale, and try to see it with fresh eyes. This is a fantastic way to introduce a classic story to a younger, less classically enthusiastic group of readers. I also admire that Sherri includes really probing study questions at the end of the book, making the reader look analytically at some of the changes made in this version, and drawing their own conclusions on their meaning and appropriateness.

Because the book draws on a classic, I recommend it highly to fans of classic works of the Brontes and Austen. Because it contains supernatural aspects, I recommend it for lovers of the horror genre, as well as vamp romances like Twilight. Because it contains strong themes of redemption, godliness, purity, and salvation, I find it entirely appropriate for Christian readers. In short, I think this book has major mass appeal, and I will recommend it to every reader I meet. I think it will mostly appeal to female readers, but there is a good bit of action that even hard core male vamp-lit fans may enjoy.

In this short review, I have used variations of the word “love” at least six times. Needless to say, I loved this book, and I would love to see it made into a movie. Hello, Tim Burton…..Helena would make a fantastic Mrs. Reed…..