Adele: Jane Eyre’s Hidden Story

Written by Emma Tennant
Review by Gerald T. Burke

It is about 1800 when the story opens. Eight year old Adèle Varens, the daughter of Céline Varens, a popular actress, recounts her life in Paris. As the story unfolds, her mother suddenly abandons her, and she moves to Thornfield Manor in England, the ward of Edward Rochester– her apparent father. Over time, she discovers the dark mysteries of Thornfield’s household and comes to terms with her modest governess, Jane Eyre. As Adèle matures into a young woman, she becomes possessed by her dream to reunite her parents. Eventually she runs away to Paris searching for her mother, only to find her youthful memories betrayed by the stark realities of life. Edward pursues, hoping to convince her to return to Thornfield and Jane Eyre, now his wife.

This story’s plot line and characters are intimately intertwined with those of the novel Jane Eyre, but clearly this is Adèle’s story. Through her experiences, both novels are enriched, and particularly interesting is the contrast portrayed between English and French societies of the early 19th century. Tennant presents fascinating speculations on character and motive, and her style and attention to historical detail succeeds in extending Bronte’s classic, which will delight fans of Jane Eyre.