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From the Stacks: The love of Jane Eyre's life tells his story in 'Mr. Rochester'

From the Stacks: The love of Jane Eyre's life tells his story in 'Mr. Rochester'

February 4th, 2018 by Kimberly Bolton, For the News Tribune in Life & Entertainment

Two hundred years ago, the reading public was introduced to Edward Fairfax Rochester of Thornfield Hall, the man Jane Eyre fell in love with in Charlotte Bronte's classic novel. Now, Mr. Rochester is given a chance to tell us his own story in the new, self-titled novel by Sarah Shoemaker.

Remaining true to Bronte's original story, Shoemaker gives us a new perspective on the relationship between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Creating an entire back story for Edward Rochester gives the reader deeper insight into this fascinating character.

Edward Rochester is born into wealth and privilege, but as second son to George Howell Rochester, he leads a lonely, somewhat remote existence at Thornfield as his father grooms his dissolute eldest son, Rowland. Edward's mother dies before he is old enough to remember her. A cold, severe and distant man, his father leaves him in the care of servants. His brother, years older than he, is a menacing figure in his young life.

As second son, Edward will inherit little, if any, of his father's money, nor will he inherit Thornfield Hall, the only home he has ever known. At the age of 8, Edward is sent away to boarding school. He begins years of training that will teach him the skills required to make his own way in the world. Yet, unknown to Edward Rochester, his father is manipulating his life behind the scenes. His father's plotting and scheming will ultimately lead Edward to the island of Jamaica in the hopes of making a life for himself, managing his father's sugar plantation and marriage to the beautiful Bertha Mason, daughter of his father's business partner.

Edward discovers too late that his father's machinations have led him into a marriage with a woman slowly going mad, which will lead to tragic consequences for everyone concerned, but most of all for Edward himself.

Taking his wedding vows to heart, Edward makes a deathbed promise to care for his lunatic wife for as long as she lives, sacrificing his own chance for happiness and love for years to come. When told of the news of his father's and brother's death, leaving him the sole heir of Thornfield Hall, Edward returns to England to take up his new responsibilities. He secludes his wife in an upstairs room of the great house and leaves for Europe to pursue a life he never had, but a life that leaves him dissatisfied and discontented. Edward despairs of ever finding a woman he can truly find some measure of happiness, but he admits to himself if had he not taken this particular journey in life, the road he traveled down would not have led him to his beloved Jane.

Following the writing style of Charlotte Bronte, Shoemaker tells the story in the first person, capturing the essence of this fascinating man. Through Shoemaker's novel, Mr. Rochester remains as intriguing and captivating a literary character in the 21st century as he did 200 years ago.

Kimberly Bolton is the circulation clerk at Missouri River Regional Library.