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A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
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Jan 01, 14

bookshelves: published-2012, retelling, gothic, historical-fantasy, pages-300s
Read from September 11, 2011 to March 20, 2012

Originally posted at Small Review

3.5 stars

Why you can't just look at the rating

My ratings are my personal, subjective reaction to the book I read. It's a measure of how much I enjoyed it, or not. My ratings are NOT objective critiques on the worthiness of a book.

So that's why it would be a really bad idea to look at my 3.5 rating here and think A Breath of Eyre is only a slightly above average book. It's not. It's a good, solid book and I do recommend it.

It's just not really MY kind of book.

What I was expecting

I gravitate toward time travel (book travel?) stories like this because I like to laugh and I automatically assume this plotline will come with a hefty dose of sarcasm, funny observations, and "fish out of water" hilarity.

Barring that, I was expecting to get caught up in the Gothic romance of Jane Eyre. Which, to be honest, is probably me setting myself up for a fall because I've, um, neveractuallyreadJaneEyre. So I really don't think I was in a position to have accurate expectations.

But either way I figured I'd spend a chapter or two in the modern world before Emma was whisked into the pages of Jane Eyre where I would then spend the rest of the story.

And of course all my expectations were completely wrong.

What I got

First off, the vast majority of the book takes place in modern times. Jane Eyre is more of a metaphor that helps Emma deal with the events in her real life. It is NOT the focal point of the story (though if you haven't read the original, prepare yourself for massive spoilers).

And that humor I was expecting? Definitely NOT there. The meat of the story is Emma's real life relationship with her father, her two friends, and her maybe crush. All of these relationships are fraught with Serious Issues like the specter of dead mothers, suicide, depression, mental illness, death, classism, insecurity, and racism.

Heavy, right? For a contemporary issues reader, this book will be a treasured gem. But for me, I was lost. I'm not an issues reader, and these issues are all WAY too heavy for me. I may have even teared up a little at one point.

So why didn't I just DNF?

Honestly, I was tempted. For me, reading issues books is like wearing an itchy wool sweater. Everything feels forced and uncomfortable.

But narrator Emma was like a pair of super comfy fuzzy socks and that is why I kept reading. There was something about her that felt right and made me want to be her friend. She's shy and unsure and sort of floundering around, but she has a strength to her that made me proud. I could relate to Emma's fears and her desire to conquer them.

The pacing was also sort of slow, but there was interpersonal stuff going on all the time and I was curious to see how it would all unfold. I was antsy in the beginning because it takes a long time before Emma gets sucked into the book, but that's mostly because I was expecting a different sort of book at that time.

The narrative then bounces back and forth with Emma traveling from our world to Jane's, back to ours, then back to Jane's, and then back to ours again. The biggest surprise to me was that I actually enjoyed the parts in our world more than those in Jane's. I was completely caught up in Emma's interpersonal growth and her friends' various dramas.

Do you have to read Jane Eyre first?

I don't know. I didn't. I'm sure I missed a bunch of nods to the original (which was a bummer because that's one of my favorite parts of retellings), and I know I got a ton of spoilers.

Overall though, I think it's not necessary to have read the original. I never felt lost or left out for having not read Jane Eyre. Emma's journey stands well on its own, and if her growth takes a cue from Jane, it does not diminish Emma's triumphs.

Bottom line

This isn't my kind of book at all, so the fact that I read it cover to cover, loved the narrator, and actually found enjoyment is saying something. Contemporary issues readers should like it a whole lot more and will probably really appreciate the way Jane Eyre was used to guide Emma.

Eve Marie Mont's sensitive handling of intense issues, beautiful writing, creativity, and ability to craft well-developed characters make her a welcome addition to the ranks of YA authors. There will be two more books in this series as Emma gets sucked into The Scarlet Letter and The Phantom of the Opera. I'm not really sure how that will work given Emma's mode of travel in A Breath of Eyre, but I have faith that Eve Marie Mont will pull it off.

Originally posted at Small Review
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Reading Progress

03/15/2012 page 34
10.0% 1 comment
03/19/2012 page 199
58.0% "Hm, this is an unexpected direction..." 3 comments
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Wendy Darling I often have trouble with retellings, so I fear this one is probably not for me. *sigh* Such a great, thorough review, though!


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