If you missed my first Writers Read post on the book of Acts, I urge you to check it out. Those who know me know I love to read. I usually have 2-3 books going at once. The ultimate compliment to me is when people ask me for book recommendations, so I thought I'd use my blog to do that about once a month. Sometimes I'll let you know what I'm reading in the Bible and sometimes (like here) I'll be recommending a specific book.
With some reluctance, I picked up Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker a couple of months ago. First let me say, it's a beautiful book (as you can see from the cover -which is a link to buy it on Amazon) I totally judge books by their cover despite many warnings not to. Why was I reluctant? I feel protective about the things I love.
Mr. Rochester is Jane's love interest in the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This new take on Edward Rochester sheds some much-needed light on his tragic backstory before he met Jane. I loved the idea of knowing more about him.
I'm thrilled to say Shoemaker didn't ruin the original at all. In fact, she improved the original. As much as I love the romance between Jane and Edward, I find myself thinking, "Sometimes he's kind of a jerk." Sarah Shoemaker must have felt the same way and she wrote this book to explain why. In my opinion, Edward went from mysterious to sympathetic with this retelling. It was fascinating to see a story I love from a different point of view.
Shoemaker made it feel like a long-lost manuscript of Bronte's instead of cheap fan fiction. I was afraid the language would either sound too new or too old and fake. Again my fears were relieved. Is his side of the story what Bronte intended? No one knows. But there's no reason it couldn't have happened that way. I learned so much about the culture and economics of 19th century England as well as the slave trade. In fact, I happened to be reading Eric Metaxas's Amazing Grace at the same time. What a perfect fiction/nonfiction match. Thanks to Shoemaker's research, I felt much more immersed in Rochester's world than I ever did with Jane.
Probably my favorite part of both Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester is the redemption in it. I won't give too much away, but Rochester has a past. Like an ugly, sad, super-weird past. And one of the things Jane's known for saying is, "God has tempered judgement with mercy." The good news is, the same God who gave mercy in this story still tempers our judgement that way. He knows our past. He knows it's ugly, sad, and even super-weird in places and he still extends mercy. This book was a great reminder of that truth.
Not familiar with Jane Eyre? No judgment here. I'm a former English teacher and there are still plenty of classics I haven't read. While it's probably more fun to read it knowing Jane's story, Mr Rochester stands alone just fine.
The only tough part about this book is it's a hefty one. It weighs in at 464 pages. I listened to it on Audible and it was almost 17 hours. Simon Shepherd, the narrator, had no trouble keeping my interest. If you're busy like me, listening to it may be the best option. You can feel free to listen with kids in the room because I don't remember hearing any foul language.
Please comment below if you've read this book or if you plan on giving it a try. I'd love to hear from you.