I must be honest and tell you that I am always suspicious of books that are a spin off from a classic read. This time, however, I was completely in the wrong. All Hallows at Eyre Hall kept me tightly bound to my reading of it and constantly entertained with its twists and turns.
I was never a great fan of the original Jane Eyre. I thought she was wimpy and colorless and Edward Rochester pusillanimous. Now, more than twenty years later, Jane has a backbone and Edward is still spineless, whining, and morally corrupt. But now Jane is fully cognizant of his failings and no longer loves him. The book begins with Edward on his deathbed and I thought, At last, Jane is free and can live her own life. Richard Mason returns, brother of Bertha, Edward’s first, mad wife, who lived locked on the top floor of Thornfield Hall – the same man who interrupted Jane’s first wedding ceremony by claiming bigamy because his sister was still living. With him comes an evil that threatens to destroy everything Jane holds dear – her sanity, her family and Eyre Hall. The venal Richard tries again to insinuate himself into the Rochester estate and its money by bringing with him to Eyre Hall a young girl, whom he claims is the offspring of Edward and Bertha. He also plants a mole at the Hall to spy for him.
During this period, Jane once again falls deeply and inappropriately in love, but this time with a much younger man, whose status as staff at the Hall creates a love story with unexpected twists and turns. There is a lot more to this love story, but I don’t want to be a spoiler.
What Richard demands to keep both Annette’s lineage and Jane’s love a secret aroused murderous feelings in this reader. There are also new revelations of extent of Edward’s depravity, creating more impossible stressors in Jane’s life. Jane’s response to these threats to her future and to that of her son John (who has an immediate and innocent attraction to the Annette), is planned out with her usual practicality, but will it work? Will she be strong enough to go through with her plan? The reader will need to get the next volume in this trilogy, out this fall.
I found the characters in All Hallows at Eyre Hall richly drawn, and the descriptions that maintain the period of the piece well researched and in perfect continuity to the original book. Whether you liked or disliked the original Jane Eyre, you will find this sequel alternately engaging, surprising and impossible to put down.