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Novel set in Yorkshire (“a tide of disaster”)

4th December 2014

Thornfield Hall by Jane Stubbs, novel set in Yorkshire, UK.

(Read our review with caution if you are unfamiliar with the original story of Jane Eyre)

IMG_2828This book is a re-imagining of the story of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester seen through the eyes of the servants, essentially Alice Fairfax, the housekeeper at Thornfield Hall. Such an interesting take on the original book by Charlotte Brontë and (both) well worth the read.

The book starts off at a gentle pace as the reader gets to know the ways of life in the grand houses of very early Victorian England. The relationships between master and servants are established and explored as the characters are introduced. Etiquette and manners of the era are well researched and highlighted, and it is a pleasure to hear about the lives of people well over 150 years ago.

Mr Rochester, the owner of Thornfield Hall is often away on his travels and the staff members are left to get on with their lives; occasionally he returns on a whim. But one of his visits heralds the arrival of a deranged woman, who is to be housed secretly on the third floor of the house, only a couple of people are to know about her existence. There are few surprises in store as the plot has been mapped out in the original work, but it is nevertheless delightful to observe the storyline unfold with ease and precision.

A care programme for the mad woman in the attic is devised and gradually her histrionics subside – only to be inflamed when Mr Rochester happens upon her. Clearly there is some connection between the two people, which of course manifests as the book unfolds.

The house is a haven for waifs and strays and Alice Fairfax also soon arrives at Thornfield Hall, but again a question mark hangs over her head. What his her connection with Mr Rochester? Soon, Jane Eyre – “a woman with a ‘central core of tempered steel” – is employed as her tutor and any encounters with her employer  are well supervised, and yet….

Nuptials are soon announced, but all hell breaks loose and the story turns from a pleasing amble into a frantic gallop towards the end. The end can feel a little crowded and frantic, when suddenly, to crown everything, a fire changes the lives of many. Overall this is a good and engrossing read.

In the photo, we chose to set our copy of the book against the backdrop of The National Trust property Seaton Delaval Hall (its actual setting a little further North, in Northumberland) because that grand house, too, suffered a major fire in 1822, a date not far off the tragedy that took place in Thornfield Hall. It is here that one can imagine life above and below stairs as portrayed in the novel.

And finally to the cover of the book…. it certainly alludes to all the comings and goings on the third floor of Thornfield Hall but it feels like quite a dull cover. Technically, green and red are complementary colours, far apart on the colour wheel and should work well in harmony. However, here we have two colours that are a dull mix, making the cover feel lacklustre. Subdued colours are, of course Victorian, they loved earthy, tonal colours, but for the 21st century I think the audience might be looking for something brighter and more eye-catching.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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