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In her acknowledgements, the author writes ….”to Charlotte Bronte , who masterfully invented this terrific character, who has kept readers wondering for many years”. Wonder no longer. With astonishing imagination, in her debut novel, Sarah Shoemaker has brought Edward Fairfax Rochester thrillingly to life. If you are a fan of Bronte’s Jane Eyre, you will, of course, get more from this detailed novel than a casual reader. However, the writer has carefully crafted her book so that any lover of good literature will gain much from reading her work. As a second son, Edward’s expectations were not so great as those of his brother, so he knew, early on, that he could not inherit his beloved home, Thornfield Hall, but when, aged eight, he was sent to Mr Lincoln’s school, he was bewildered. His two friends from those days, where destined to die young, so that Edward was bereft once again. After some years, Edward journeys to Jamaica, where his father had provided him with “a trading company, with three sailing ships, a sugar plantation, and as well, the eduction to make the best of all that.” Fortunate indeed, until he met beautiful Bertha, and married her. Shoemaker brings them back to England, with mad Bertha, in the care of Grace Poole, on the third floor of the Hall. My puzzlement with Jane Eyre was always how could you keep that third floor, and its occupants, so secret, within the home, and in the district? That’s where so much of the detail comes in, as today’s author explains that situation, which must have worried her also. The ‘burden of a mad wife” is fully realised, as Sarah Shoemaker follows the scant clues in the Bronte classic to bring her Mr Rochester to the solving of his dilemma. It is all drama, and slightly overwrought, but who cares? Certainly not this reviewer, who was captivated by such a clever scenario, shedding light on an earlier book, beloved by successive generations.


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