Title: Charlotte: The Last Journey of Jane Eyre.
Author: D.M. Thomas.
Genre: Fiction, romance.
Publication Date: 2000.
Summary: A manuscript is discovered purporting to be the work of Charlotte Bronte. The manuscript, both remarkable and surprising, offers a darker, alternative ending to the story of Jane and Mr. Rochester in the classic Jane Eyre. Told parallel to a story of a relationship in present day between a daughter and her father. The two inter-related themes are the change in woman over a century and a half, and different forms of enslavement and dependence.
My rating: 5.5/10.
My review: I don't think I have ever felt violated after reading a novel before I've had the misfortune to chance upon this one. As a woman and a lover of literature, I am of a firm opinion that D.M. Thomas is not qualified to comment and qualify either, and it's unclear what possessed him to try. In concept, I understand what he was trying to do. I understand that it was supposed to be shocking, provocative, challenging, but perhaps this is what novels end up like when being all those things becomes their only aim. It's supposed to make it ok that in the book, the alternate ending to Jane Eyre that makes up a part of this book is actually faked by Miranda in order to amuse her Dad. That fact barely helps because we don't find that out until much later, plus Miranda is an actual Brontë scholar. Aside from all this, what annoyed me arguably as much as the complete rape of one of my favourite novels interspersed with an absolutely repulsive narrative, is the author's seemingly complete lack of understanding of a nature of the novel. He gets almost redundant in pointing out that in his belief, great literature is more a lie, and it is more removed from an average person and harder to relate to than
♥ The housekeeper and her husband were both of that decent phlegmatic order of people, to whom one may at any time safely communicate a remarkable piece of news without incurring the danger of having one’s ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently stunned by a torrent of wordy wonderment.
♥ However, she is not you, Jane - not you. One kiss, innocently on the cheek, from you, seemed to contain all the poetry and passion of Shakespeare and Byron. I saw it sorrowfully: for if you were not a secret child of passion, you would not so strongly have craved another, and I should doubtless have been able to bring you along with me.
♥ Still, I am happy - yet my brain swirls from the sheer unreality of all the changes that have occurred in my life: both tragic and joyous. It is so with all lives. No novel, whether a virile, rumbustious concoction by Mr Fielding, an urbane social comedy by Miss Austen or - dare I say it? - a gloomy, muffled romance by one of the Miss Brontës, can be more than a feeble echo of what actually occurs to all of us. Even though we weep over tender death-bed scenes, do we not read and write novels in order to escape from the sheer terror of real life? Even sudden happiness is, in its way, terrible.
♥ The road descended suddenly to a seaside village that was unmistakably Caribbean. Rank vegetation, a blend of growing and rotting; and a line of tall men, like shadows, on the beach, pulling on heavy nets that stretched the length of the shingle. The men seemed ancient, like a carving in a cave from a forgotten civilization. The net, the village, fish, the ocean, men bringing food ashore, living wholly in their bodies and their strength. And on the other side of the road, women in white, over-fussy frilly dresses and hats were on their way to church. It seemed back to front: it ought to be the men dressed in white, I felt, linking the world with the spiritual, and the women dealing with the chaos of the sea and nature; for their uncontrollable mysterious bodies were much more part of the island and its endlessly growing, seething flora.
♥ At a sign pointing the house of Gauguin, I left the main road. Immediately the foliage closed in around the car, the route grew twisty and steep and the trees tall, some growing straight, some listing across the road. At home, in England, tree-lined roads often have the light gothic grandeur of a cathedral, but here they were dark, sinister, full - I knew - of crawling creatures, their legs spread against flowers that were lush and overstated. The origins of life felt uncomfortably close, life and death, as all this splendid growing depended on the rotting fruit and dying trees: life, a parasite on all the lives that have gone before; my own life, its freedom and convenience predicated on the denial of life, the killing of a soul that had gills like the heaps of gasping fish hauled up on the beach. He - or she, for I never inquired about the sex - would be just over three, now.
♥ Jerry had called me, when first stroking my breast, all the Creole names for fruit as well as doudou, sweetness; but I’d preferred it when, asked what the Creole word for cunt was, he said patate was one of them. Potato. It felt easier to be earthly-solid, not likely to rot in a day, not so full of seeds and sweetness that all the birds want to peck the flesh and insects crawl inside you.
♥ “...So began her lying, her pretence…
“But as time went on she used it to great effect, by becoming a superb novelist. Not all novelists are liars; the further a novelist departs from reality as we experience it, the less of a liar he or she is. There is no way in which Danielle Steel and Stephen King lie; but Tolstoy does, and Proust; and so does Charlotte Brontë…
“They lie, in the sense that their material and subject are their own lives, their own emotions. But they distort them, twist them, partly to make fiction, partly because they themselves are half-unconscious of the personal realities that the launch of a roman, a romance, allows them to explore. Their novels therefore become more like poems - which have multiple visions and layers…”
♥ “My dear, anyone as unfailingly rational and PC as David is bound to have a breakdown sometime; because life isn’t like that. Life’s more like your mother.”
“Well, yes. And surprising and beautiful.”
♥ Such was our passion, which seemed to be boundless, that we began to understand my father a little better. Hitherto, we could not at all comprehend how my poor mother’s madness, and her potential violence, only served to increase his desire for her. Now Jane - and I, to a lesser extent - saw that her gentleness, her purity, had no chance of wooing him away from Bertha. She even, in the course of our passion, understood my mother a little better; understood, that is, that the heights of passion can render everything pure.
♥ But, as she once said to me, we are all bound within the island of our time, and our upbringing, and only a great passion, a great faith, can free us from it.