Jill's Reviews > A Breath of Eyre

A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
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May 31, 2012

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Emma Townsend is a lonely girl of 16 who attends a boarding school, Lockwood, on scholarship (meaning that she is looked down upon by most of the other students who are from wealthy families). Her childhood friend, Gray Newman, 18, good looking and popular (and who Emma now considers to be out of her league), is even dating one of the snobbiest girls from Lockwood, Elise Fairchild. Elise and her friends fit the typical popular rich girl stereotypes – Elise is as beautiful as she is mean, and her friends do her bidding and help her gang up on students they consider to be inferior.

Emma’s mom died when Emma was quite young, and she has a stepmother, Barbara, who tries to be a mom to Emma but Emma isn’t having any of it. Instead, she still pines for her mother. Otherwise, Emma focuses on trying to be a writer (she keeps a journal), and daydreams about her handsome Brit Lit teacher, Mr. Gallagher (who reminds her of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre). In fact, Emma is writing a paper about Jane Eyre for her class project.

In the meanwhile, Emma’s finally gets a friend – her new roommate, Michelle, also a scholarship student, and the two of them find a third friend in a boy from Braburn (where Gray attends), Owen Mabry. One night while the three of them get caught out in a storm, Emma is hit by lightening. Somehow, she finds herself back at Thornfield in the 19th Century, and she has stepped into the life of Jane Eyre. The characters from the book also happen to resemble those from her real life: for example, Mrs. Fairfax looks just her French teacher, and Mr. Rochester is of course Mr. Gallagher.

When she finally wakes up from the lightening-induced coma (using her mother’s dragonfly pendant instead of - say - ruby slippers to help her get back), everything is different for Emma, who has learned, after all, that there is no place like home.

Discussion: There are resemblances to The Wizard of Oz as well as Jane Eyre in this story, along with some aspects of time travel and questions about changing history. There is also a re-interpretation of Bertha’s story from Jane Eyre, with Emma/Jane painting her as a much more sympathetic figure, victimized by her status as a depressed woman in a society which, not unlike Emma’s Lockwood School, marginalized any female who was different.

On the whole, however, I liked the contemporary story much more than the time when Emma was back at Thornfield. For one thing, I thought there was far too much of direct quoting from Jane Eyre – I’ve read that book so many times it was actually kind of boring to me to have so much of it rehashed word for word.

I also thought that while there is an argument to be made for a feminist interpretation of the plight of Bertha Mason, the author changed the facts of the original story somewhat in order to do it. In this one case in which she didn’t actually use the original verbatim, I felt it would have been far more effective to do so.

Third, there are times when she conflates the characters of Gray and Mr. Gallagher, both of whom take on some of the traits of Mr. Rochester. I think she should have stuck with one or the other.

Finally, the author was developing an interesting plotline about Michelle’s father that she dropped. I thought for sure that the person who handed Michelle the roses toward the end of the book would figure in that relationship, but it was not taken any farther. On the other hand, it seems that Emma’s story continues in a book to come, in which she apparently goes back into the world of The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps Michelle’s story will continue as well.

Evaluation: This story will no doubt be found very rewarding for fans of Jane Eyre retellings. The author also is to be commended for handling the time travel "logistics" better than many such books.
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