Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott
r/suggestmeabook: I want a contemporary mash-up of Jane Eyre and Rebecca.
Movie rating: R
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (an Amazon imprint)
ARC provided by NetGalley
Contemporary retelling of classic
From the publisher: Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal―a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts.
This is a fun read, and instead of doing the usual analysis as a retelling, I’m going to talk about why I titled it the way I did. The writing is good and fast-paced, the characters work, etc., and the plot is taken from greats. However, in retellings I have certain expectations about how the new version plays with the old one, so my gut take on how to treat this was to look more at that, as expectations play such a big part in whether we like a thing or not.
I pulled out my phone. Just one bar, which quickly spluttered out like an extinguished candle.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
I know, the book blurb says that it’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, but I kept thinking of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca: the setting on the coast with an abandoned cabin was probably the part that kept me thinking of the later novel. Okay, I admit, I’ve only seen the movie[s] version of Rebecca; I have read Jane Eyre (and seen some movie versions). (More disclosure—I hesitate to say full—I only got around to reading Jane Eyre because of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. Love that book.) That’s not a criticism; I like both Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and this modern gothic has taken bits of both and given a spin on them that works. But for fans of the former, this retelling may be a little different than they expected.
A heavy gust of fog obscured my view, and when it passed, the glimmer was gone, and there was nothing down there at all. Nothing except sand laced with gray foam and glistening rocks and the heaving sea beyond it.
Nothing could have disappeared so quickly.
Nothing except a ghost.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
Evan Rochester is hot, not really how I recall feeling after reading the description of Edward Rochester. Another detail that makes me lean toward the Rebecca feel.
I became aware once again of his intense physicality. His height. The breadth of his shoulders. The power of his musculature. The rage had faded from his face, and I no longer felt threatened. Just the opposite, I realized. I felt protected.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
However, it’s not hard to see similarities between Jane Eyre and Rebecca when you start looking, as they’re both Gothic, brooding sorts of novels. Both have the wealthy older man coupled with a naive and poor younger woman, in both the protagonist has no family, and in both, the male hero is stupidly withholding information. Both also have a current potential rival to the protagonist.
I made it back to the cottage feeling shaken and chilled. Like a first rate martini, I thought. Except, no, the best martinis were stirred, and suddenly I began to crave one.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
For me, the strongest reason for thinking of Rebecca rather than Jane Eyre is the cursory treatment of this Jane’s family and upbringing and that she doesn’t lose her mother until adulthood. The original Jane’s childhood in her forbidding orphanage explains many of her adult choices. (Okay, I’ve got to use some kind of shorthand for the original Jane Eyre character—from here on, she’s OJ.) The Jane in LIndsay Marcott’s version has only lost her mother relatively recently, and there’s nothing to indicate the same kind of hardships that OJ underwent. At the opening of the book, Marcott’s Jane has been a successful TV writer, albeit on cable, which doesn’t parallel OJ at all.
An unwelcome surprise in my cottage. My bed that I’d left rumpled was now made up military tight. My breakfast dishes were no longer in the sink. Every surface gleamed. Anunciata had been here with her Swiffer.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
And the other stance that differentiates it from Jane Eyre and makes it more like Rebecca is that Marcott’s Jane knows of the existence of Rochester’s wife from the outset, whereas OJ doesn’t learn of Bertha until Chapter 26. (Hell, OJ didn’t even know Rochester existed until after she arrived at Thornfield.) Instead, like the second Mrs. De Winter, Marcott’s Jane is obsessed with the first wife (Beatrice in this version for reasons that are probably obvious) even though she doesn’t come to Thornfield because of her marriage. Indeed, the Rebecca analogy is strengthened by the stronger presence of the Bertha analog’s brother in this retelling, more like the cousin in Rebecca, whom Jane interacts with on various occasions throughout the book.
And now, with visible calculation, Richard McAdams tried another tack with me: his eyes softened; his mouth assumed a boyish smirk.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
The strongest reason to discard the Rebecca analysis is the absence of Mrs. Danvers’ psychological manipulation. The creepy housekeeper in this one is no Danvers; she barely speaks English (if at all; I don’t now recall if she said anything much), so her ability to bewitch Jane with insinuations is limited. If anyone is being a frenemy, it’s Jane’s friend Otis, an aspiring chef, who is the one who dragged Jane out to Thorn Bluffs (the Thornfield analog) to begin with.
Thickets of ferns glistened like otherworldly plants between the trunks. Hump-backed shadows flickered in the foliage beyond.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
Regardless of the Rebecca similarities, it’s still got Jane Eyre references. The names, of course, are the most significant, as well as the general plot, although, not surprisingly, there are key differences. The character of the girl Jane comes to Thorn Bluffs to tutor is much more developed in Marcott’s story, which I found to be a plus. The brother of the Bertha character is very well done and adds depth to the story.
With the air of granting a particularly nonsensical favor, Sophia yanked the belt across her chest. Tugged her short-shorts from between the cleft of her buttocks, excavated a pack of Bubble Yum from her back pocket, and ripped it open. Crammed two pink slabs in her mouth.Lindsay Marcott, Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost
So if you’re in the mood for a Gothic romance that is reminiscent of both these classics, check out Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost.