John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow

Written by Mimi Matthews
Review by K. M. Sandrick

In 1843, John Eyre leaves his position as a schoolmaster in Lowton, England, to become a private tutor for a pair of young boys living at Thornfield Hall in Yorkshire. Beset by guilt and regret after the suicide of his friend Lady Helen Burns, and plagued by what he calls megrim headaches, John is looking forward to living and working in the remote location as well as having the chance to rekindle his passion for teaching.

Upon arrival, he is struck by oddities—the storm that always threatens but never arrives, the mists that take on ethereal shapes, the black dog legends. Particularly unusual are Stephen and Peter, his strangely pale and silent students, and Mrs. Rochester, the peripatetic mistress of Thornfield.

This retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre is not alone. Other iterations have modernized the tale, transformed it into a graphic novel, offered Rochester’s perspective, or placed Jane in destinations outside of England. But in bestselling author Matthews’ hands, John Eyre offers new twists and turns.

The book provides an interesting take on the timeless tale not only by switching Jane to John and Mr. to Mrs. Rochester. It also weaves in elements of Gothic suspense and superstition. The atmosphere is appropriately moody and disquieting. The storyline emerges gradually, building drama and tension. Characters, even minor ones, are complex and memorable. Language is Brontë-esque, making the reader feel he or she is not just turning the pages of a knockoff but actually entering Charlotte’s world. John Eyre is a stellar addition to the Eyre family of fan fiction.