A Breath of Eyre


A Breath of Eyre, a young adult novel, opens with a sad sweet-sixteen party showing us Emma Townsend’s lack of friends and uneasy relationship with her parents. Life continues lonely at her prep school, although reading Jane Eyre provides interest, especially when Emma is hit by lightning and wakes up in Jane Eyre’s body. The book time travels between 19th- century Thornfield and contemporary Massachusetts.

Mont develops girl-empowering themes. Emma admires Jane’s ability to stick to her principles. Unlike Jane, Emma rejects the passive role of obedient good girl — being good is fine, but keep your brain in the game and fight back when your independence is under siege. Emma finds inner strength and self-confidence. She learns to believe in her value within a romance. At one point she asks herself, “Why did a girl’s happiness always seem to depend upon a man?” She finds it doesn’t have to.

Mont has combined the contemporary language of her modern heroine with the Victorian prose of Brontë. The portions set at Thornfield are often taken verbatim from Jane Eyre, especially dialogue between Rochester and Jane. This may be a way to introduce a teenager to Victorian prose. I found the mix of language somewhat jarring in places. For example, after a very Victorian-sounding conversation between Mrs. Fairfax and Jane about Miss Ingram, the narrator thinks, “Now I realized how stupid I had been. He was my boss.” Both statements are very contemporary in feel, especially the word “boss.” Perhaps these abrupt changes of language are intended to show that Emma must stop being Jane and return to her 21st-century world where she belongs.

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(US) 9780758269485




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