What I've read lately

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 29 21:42:25 EST 2003

All this talk of retelling Jane Eyre brings to mind a
book that I and at least one other person (I forget
who) has mentioned on this list. Jasper Fforde's "The
Eyre Affair" which goes beyond a simple of retelling
of JE to alter the ending (in the world of the story )

Rather than leave the spoiler space blank I will
instead say that I found the book (and the second in
the series - "Lost in a good book" hilarious, probably
the best things I have read all year. While on the
topic of years faves I'll fill up a bit more space
with some others as I haven't done so yet.
Best YA novel "Mortal engines" by Reeves which we have
discussed here.
Most disgusting children's book Andy Griffiths "The
year my bum when psycho" ebven if you are into toilet
humour this book was over the top (or perhaps under
the bottom) needless to say it was the top selling
title by any Australian author last year.
Best fantasy series "Oath of Empire" by Thomas Harlan,
I have now read book three, with my daughter promising
me book 4 for my birthday (not till June), perhaps
most interesting for its treatment of Islam and
Judaism in an alternate Roman empire. I'm surprised
there hasn't been a fatwar on the author yet, but
until the final book appears it is hard to see what he
is saying about those religions. Also although there
are seemingly no Christians in his world there do
appear to be Cathars.
Other goodies - Gregory Maguire's "Wicked" and
"Confessions of an ugly stepsister" (which is another
cinderella story  for that thread).
Best DWJ - rereading "Deep secret"

and now back to the original message

from the original in which JE goes off to India after
discovering Rochester has a wife to the version we are
familiar with, this occurs by way of a disturbing
interlude when for a period of time Jane Eyre simply
ends on page 112 with the eponymous heroine kidnapped
by a mysterious stranger. 


--- Abe Gross <argross at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> > On Mon, Jan 27, 2003 at 11:07:12PM +1100, Abe
> Gross wrote:
> > > The prize for the most Disappointing Book goes
> to Sharon Shinn's _Jenna
> > > Starborn_. I love nearly everything Shinn has
> written, particularly her
> > > Archangel books, though I was somewhat
> disappointed in the ending to the
> > > last one. The resolution was weak and a real
> anti-climax. I especially
> love
> > > her _Wrapt in Crystal_, and her next-to-last
> one, _Summers at Castle
> Auburn_
> > > (though it isn't flawless by any means). So I
> was really looking forward
> to
> > > _Jenna Starborn_. What a disappointment. It's
> basically the story of
> Jane
> > > Eyre, set in a futuristic society. It does have
> a few cute quirks, but
> it
> > > just doesn't work. Putting Jane in the society
> Shinn posits here makes a
> > > nonsense of the story; the characters (almost
> the same as the original
> > > novel) feel like cardboard, including the main
> character, whose main
> dilemma
> > > and decision (exactly as in the original) makes
> no sense whatsoever. So
> > > Shinn has taken the Jane Eyre story and used it
> almost exactly as it
> stands
> > > in a different context in which it just doesn't
> convince. OK. Rant over.
> Kathryn replied:
> > I agree that "Jenna Starborn" was a let-down, and
> I think part of the
> > problem is that it *did* start off well, and some
> things worked well --
> > I do think Jenna's origins made sense of her
> childhood treatment, and
> > the origin of the Mad Wife was also a good twist. 
> But I do agree, there
> > are too many things which don't make sense in the
> new context.   Some of
> > it is the consequence of earlier parts of the
> story -- for example
> > Jenna's origins in themself, render some later
> parts of the story almost
> > nonsensical. (Kathryn restrains herself from
> spoilers)  Another thing
> > that didn't sit well, I think, was the religions
> in the story.  In the
> > original, it was set in an old-fashioned Christian
> society.  In this
> > futuristic society, the made-up religions felt to
> me like the author was
> > desperately trying to avoid alluding to any
> existing religions,
> > especially Christianity.  All that ended up doing
> was, well, removing
> > some potential richness from the background, I
> think, because I found
> > the religions felt terribly contrived too.
> I agree. And, because there was no feeling of a
> believable religious or even
> cultural context for it, her refusal to marry the
> Roshester character (I've
> already forgotten his name) just felt silly.
> > Now, it isn't that I dislike retellings in
> different contexts --
> > otherwise I wouldn't even have started reading the
> book, since I knew it
> > was supposed to be a retelling of Jane Eyre, and I
> like Jane Eyre.
> > Retellings can work wonderfully -- as has been
> demonstrated by Tanith
> > Lee's "Red As Blood" or Robin McKinley's "Door In
> The Hedge" or
> > "Deerskin", and don't forget Joan Vinge's "The
> Snow Queen".
> > And you can't say that only fairytales work for
> sources of
> > retellings, because Alfred Bester did "The Count
> of Monte Cristo" in his
> > "The Stars My Destination" (aka "Tiger! Tiger!")
> and that worked
> > brilliantly.
> I don't know that particular example, but I agree
> about retellings: they can
> make you see the original in a new light and infuse
> the new story with
> richness from the original. I was expecting
> something like this from Shinn,
> who knows how to write, which is exactly why I was
> so disappointed.
> > So why did they work, and this one didn't?  I
> think maybe for a
> > retelling to work, one has to focus on the
> emotional core of the plot,
> > rather than its details.  In "The Stars My
> Destination", the emotional
> > core is a man betrayed -- the form the betrayal
> takes is different, but
> > the emotional resonance is the same. 
> Concentrating on the characters is
> > always a good thing.
> >
> > So, could Jenna Starborn have been salvaged if it
> had been written in a
> > different way?  I don't know.
> This is such an interesting question! I'm sure it's
> possible to write a
> succesful story using the Jane Eyre themes, but I'm
> not sure that the method
> Shinn has used could have been successful if she'd
> just written it
> differently. I think the problem is that she's
> simply plonked a story
> wholesale into a different context, without
> successfully translating the
> issues and emotions. I agree with you that character
> is also a key. Jenna's
> character didn't work for me because again, she
> seemed like a pale copy of
> Jane that didn't ring true. What might have worked
> is if Shinn had created
> her own new character, at home in her own particluar
> context and culture,
> and then used some of the Jane Eyre themes and plot
> elements to make us care
> about her, and to make her dilemmas feel real. But
> that didn't happen.
> Ros
> --
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