Merrie Haskell's Reviews > Ironskin

Ironskin by Tina Connolly
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Oct 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: jane-eyre-retellings, something-deep-and-dark
Read in October, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Another addition to my Jane Eyre retellings shelf. I'm hugely biased because of the source material, and full disclaimer, I also know the author and enjoy her greatly as a person.

That said... great book. Full on Jane Eyre retelling awesomeness, dark and compelling, with a dish of Tam Lin on the side.

Jane has survived a fairy war; the images of fighting the fairy war are extremely powerful and evocative. World-building in high concept scenarios so often lets me down, but this was both subtle and strong. The fey are odd and amazing, and fascinatingly engender a kind of technological revolution far ahead of the natural order of things.

But I address these JE retellings on their JEness, not their own merits (ridiculously, but we all have our bears to cross).

This version of the story gives Jane a fully realized family past. She has a living sister, and memories of her mother and brother. This is an orphan Jane but not on the same level as our original heroine. She's a governess/teacher, as is proper for a Jane Eyre retelling, but Gateshead is a battlefield where Jane fought and her brother died; and Lowood is a forge where people afflicted with fairy curses are "rehabilitated" by fitting them with cold iron prosthetics--hence the name, Ironskin.

Edward Rochart is far more Tam Lin than he is Rochester, in my mind; I did not see a whole lot of Rochester's over the top adoration for his Jane, but more of Tam Lin's purposeful and vaguely cynical use of Janet. Am I reading too much into that? Maybe. Rochart was not my favorite version of Rochester, nor my favorite character in this book, but Jane more than made up for it through one simple authorial choice: rage.

Jane's fairy curse is rage. She's been scarred, and the scar gives her rage and radiates rage toward everyone else. When she's actually angry, the rage intensifies the anger. Iron stops it, but it's poisoning her internally.

One of the things that movie adaptations so often fail with regard to Jane Eyre is adequately conveying the roiling inner turmoil of Jane, which includes the, well, rage that lives within her and causes everything from her behavior as a child in the Red Room on up through her declaration as Rochester's equal through her denial of St. John's offer of loveless marriage. It is often mistaken for passion, that rage, and that's not wrong; but it's passion in the traditional sense of the word, it's the suffering Jane endures, born of the mountain of injustices she's been buried under. That raging Jane is the Jane I understood, subtextually, when I first read Jane Eyre when I was 13; and it's the raging Jane who is so often glossed over in reinterpretations, adaptations, analysis, and commentary.

It was really nice to see her here, in Connolly's version.
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