In preparation for reading Sarah Shoemaker’s Mr. Rochester, I did my due diligence and put in the time to reread Jane Eyre. I honestly wasn’t expecting to get as much out of it as I did, and as someone who has been reluctant to reread in the past in the name of an ever growing wishlist of new things to explore, I severely underestimated the wealth to be found in studying a familiar story. I was more capable of picking up on nuances and subtleties that would have otherwise been lost on me if I hadn’t had a loose recollection of where the story was going, and I felt like I heard Bronte’s voice more strongly than I did in my first pass. I also realized how little of the actual story I did, in fact, remember, so it wasn’t nearly as repetitive as I had anticipated.
After taking a week to reread Jane Eyre, I immediately dove into Sarah Shoemaker’s soon to be released (May 9th) book Mr. Rochester. As the title implies, Mr. Rochester aims to give voice to Jane’s difficult, and notably ugly, love interest, Edward Rochester. Mr. Rochester takes us through Edward’s childhood, from boarding school as a young boy, through an apprenticeship with a mill owner, to the West Indies, and then back to England and through the time period we are already familiar with in Jane Eyre. This historical span felt quite ambitious, and as I had just read Jane Eyre itself, the most pressing question seemed to be how well Mr. Rochester succeeded in creating a viable voice for Mr. Rochester, and furthermore how Shoemaker’s imagined history enhanced Mr. Rochester’s story.