Rites of passage for one species of nerd girls include reading classic novels by Austen or one the Brontë sisters. Even as those girls grow up into young women, novels like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre will be listed under favorite books on their Facebook pages and GoodReads profiles. I am no exception. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, so I was excited and nervous to review the graphic version.
The story of Jane Eyre focuses on the young orphan, Jane, who does not fit in well with her aunt and cousins. Being stubborn with a strong sense of “fairness,” Jane is eventually sent away to a school for poor girls with no ties back to the last relatives she knows. Although the manager of the school is cruel and forces the girls through terrible conditions, the superintendent is kind and encouraging, furthering Jane’s sense of what is right in the world. When she is finished with school, Jane accepts a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall for a Mr. Rochester. Spending more and more time with him, she falls in love with her employer despite his gruff attitude, his likely engagement to a beautiful debutante, and the strange, seemingly mad woman he employs at Thornfield. Plot twists abound as Jane discovers more about Mr. Rochester and what she believes in.
The Classical Comics series creates graphic novel adaptations of famous novels to make them more accessible. Jane Eyre is now a 130-some page comic version of the original tale. The story is Brontë’s, as are many of the words and phrases, but everything is condensed to highlight only the major plot points. Certain parts of the story are breezed through, losing quite a bit of the eerie suspense that surrounds the madwoman in the attic. However, this focuses the story on the romantic elements and Jane’s personal development.
The artwork sets the tone for the tale in the bleak North England locale. While the story doesn’t spend quite enough time in the action sequences for my taste, the imagery conveys a great deal of drama, adding in thought bubble images for dreams and stories or luscious landscapes for backdrop. The art reads appropriately for a classic novel, avoiding a cartoony feel yet maintaining the otherworldly ambiance of certain parts.
Overall, this adaptation of Jane Eyre maintains the beauty of the original as well as the major story elements that any fan might deem essential. The book would be an excellent addition to a classroom. It includes extras like a biography of Charlotte Brontë, a letter she wrote to her publishers about Jane Eyre, and explanations of how the team adapted this classic into a graphic novel format. While it will not replace the original text, this adaptation may draw in new fans for Brontë and give a quick re-read for dedicated lovers of the book.
Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel [Original Text version]
by Charlotte Bronte, Amy Corzine, Joe Sutliff Sanders
Art by John M. Burns
Classical Comics, 2008