A book that offers pleasures of recognition and revelation for devoted fans of Jane Eyre.

Rochester

A MEMOIR

Holmes’ (Alaska’s Wild West, 2014, etc.) historical novel re-examines Edward Rochester’s conflicted pursuit of Jane Eyre from Rochester’s perspective.

This retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 novel opens on Rochester’s first encounter with “Miss Eyre,” his ward’s governess—whom he notes “doesn’t look above a child herself, a fairy creature”—on the road to his ancestral home, Thornfield Hall. Although he’s soon captivated by Jane’s unflappable manner, unusual beauty, and paintings—“fierce, raw, full of nature’s violence and something more, something otherworldly”—he’s constrained by his marriage to the insane Bertha Mason, who’s hidden on Thornfield’s third floor. Although he deeply resents being tricked into marrying Bertha as a young man, he sees her confinement as a merciful alternative to an asylum where “the shackles never come off.” Overall, because this book’s plot and sensibility are so closely interlocked with Jane Eyre’s, it may be less rewarding for readers unfamiliar with the source material. For example, in addition to Rochester’s past, Holmes fills in new details about his estate management, showing his generous aspect as well as the practical details of Georgian country life, including the threat of his workforce immigrating to America. The novel’s frankness about Rochester and Jane’s sexual attraction isn’t uniformly graceful; for example, there’s something jarring about Jane communicating her breathless realization to Rochester that they will be joined “by [their] nether parts.” However, the author does enhance the sense of Thornfield as a grounded, vivid place. The first-person narration captures Rochester’s wry cynicism, juxtaposing it with his more vulnerable thoughts. As he and Jane become closer, he has increasing difficulty concealing the evidence of his wife’s violent rages. Bertha’s heritage “of idiots and maniacs” is compounded here by the revelation of multiple generations of incestuous family history. This further entangles Bertha’s madness with Gothic obsessions with sex, bloodlines, and purity; here, she’s rendered so monstrous that, for all his suffering, Rochester gets off the hook a little too easily for his attempted bigamy.

A book that offers pleasures of recognition and revelation for devoted fans of Jane Eyre.

Pub Date: March 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9972741-0-3

Page Count: 299

Publisher: Legend Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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