Coming of age at the Ethel Harpst Home, an orphanage in the North Georgia Mountains, when I first read Jane Eyre at fourteen, my primary focus on that book by Charlotte Bronte was Jane Eyre’s life. Her trials and tribulations facing loss and the strengths she relied on to see her through.
In April of this year, at age fifty-three, I chanced to read it again. I was visiting the cabin in North Carolina. It was raining all week, damp and cold in the mountains. I kept a big fire in the huge stone fireplace in the central room of the cabin and I planted myself in front of the hearth all week and read the book again.
My second reading of Jane Eyre was much different than my first. I saw the relationships between the characters having been through so many life changes myself. The rich and lofty descriptions of time and place were still there, but the characters took on greater depth and their actions were accompanied by deep emotional feelings that were not present with my first reading.
It takes a huge amount of courage and dedication to take on writing a sequel to a beloved classic. To do it well, the author must know, without any doubt, the characters and their motives. Luccia Gray knows Jane Eyre and the people in her life as if she were living among them.
I always saw Jane Eyre as a girl who suffered through a cold, hard life but managed to find advantages in her circumstances that permitted her to succeed. I did not see her at all as a spineless jellyfish, but a young woman who braved each new situation with resolve and resilience. Her decisions and commitments were born out of a desire to improve herself and to love with complete abandon. Her relationship with Mr. Rochester provided for both. As an orphan myself, Jane Eyre is a character dear to my heart.
In Jane Eyre I had issue with Mr. Rochester’s past when he first took on his relationship with Jane. The way he frolicked with the Ingram girl, others, and the deplorable manner in which he managed his first wife caused me much disrespect for the man. I have often felt those who suffered mental illness in eras past had the cruelest existence imaginable. In All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Ms. Gray empathized through Jane all of my feelings about Bertha, her life, and what I had supposed about her. My suspicions about Mr. Rochester were brought out of the shadows and into the light with each word and I felt Jane Eyre had been somewhat venerated.
With Rochester on his deathbed, Jane assumes a leadership role with real decisiveness and strength of character. Strong and clever enough to manage a huge estate, yet merciful and compassionate enough to find forgiveness, Jane does not wrongfully hold others responsible for Rochester’s misdeeds. Jane’s recent past comes to life with all of its joy and sorrow. The relationships she develops are true to her original character and I believe Charlotte Bronte would enjoy this book. The emotions expressed are nearly tangible, as always, love is blind. Luccia Gray also managed to capture a perfect sense of place and time on the moors of old England and in the sprawling manor home, in the clothes and behaviors of the cast.
Initially the first person multiple points of view threw me, but Gray makes it easy to note who is doing the thinking and talking by her distinct voices for each character and a quick reference with each change. I enjoyed this book immensely and am eager to read the next book in the planned trilogy. There are new people and anticipated new places in Jane Eyre’s life. While All Hallows at Eyre Hall answered many questions that remained with the reading of Jane Eyre, the author also leaves us sitting on the edge of our seats anxiously waiting the unfolding of the rest of the story.