Books

Fixing a Classic

I’m still on a reading roll, and I found a book that I think those who love — or hate — Jane Eyre are sure to love, My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (the authors of My Lady Jane). This is an alternate history/alternate universe take on Jane Eyre that’s part spoof, part “fix,” and I had so much fun with it.

In this universe, the Duke of Wellington runs a “ghostbuster” type organization that captures troublesome ghosts. Jane Eyre can see and talk to ghosts, so she’s an attractive recruit for this organization. Unfortunately, she claims to have her heart set on being a governess and isn’t interested. This stance baffles her friend, Charlotte Bronte, who thinks this sounds far more exciting than being a governess. Charlotte would really like a job with the ghostbusters, and she thinks maybe she can prove her value if she can recruit Jane to their cause. She and a handsome young ghostbuster team up to infiltrate a house party at Thornfield Hall, where they soon learn that not all is as it seems.

This is theoretically a YA book, but I think adults who are familiar with (and have an adult perspective on) Jane Eyre will like it even more than teens do. In spite of being a sendup of the original novel that makes the author a character in it and adds ghosts, it’s surprisingly true to the original book. After reading this, I was inspired to rewatch the 2006 British miniseries version (to me, the definitive version), and I kept giggling when we got to scenes I remembered from this book. In a lot of respects, all the wacky stuff could be seen to be what’s going on behind the scenes of the original story, not necessarily changing most of the actual events (well, until later in the story). It may now be hard for me to read/watch Jane Eyre without imagining the ghost of Helen there to make remarks that only Jane can hear.

As in My Lady Jane, there are loads of pop culture references (including a whole scene that’s a fun take on The Princess Bride) and commentary on social mores of that era. These books are just the thing if you want to laugh and you want to fix literature or history to make it come out better. I don’t know if there are any other Janes whose lives they’re planning to improve, but I sure hope so.

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