D. M. Thomas, Author . Duck Editions $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7156-3004-4

Of the making of sequels and prequels to Jane Eyre, there seems to be no end. Thomas's novel is conscious of the tradition, saluting Jean Rhys as well as Charlotte Brontë. Miranda Stevenson, the narrator through most of the book, is the daughter of an English eccentric, a scholar and artist who engaged the young Miranda in ambiguous incestuous playacting. Now nearly 40, Miranda is a wife and mother. Having just come out of a "breakdown," she goes to Martinique to recuperate, taking advantage of an offer to give a lecture on Charlotte Brontë. While there, she satisfies a surreptitiously racist fetish by seducing black men. Miranda's account of her sexual exploits is interspersed with political commentary—she is the type who deplores the imperialist, genocidal foundations of Western affluence while relying wholly on the perquisites it gives her. Into this framework, Thomas inserts a continuation of Jane Eyre. This derives from a fraud Miranda perpetrated on her father a long time ago, when she successfully imitated Charlotte Brontë's handwriting to pen an account of Jane's brief, unhappy marriage to Rochester. Rochester, it seems, is not entirely satisfactory in bed, and she is finally enlightened about the sexual act by a friend. When Jane confronts Rochester with his sexual reluctance, he rides off into the night and breaks his neck. Unfortunately, Thomas's pastiche of Brontë is so dreadful that if Miranda's father were truly an eccentric genius, he'd easily see through it. Miranda's Eurotrash narrative is a variation on Thomas's exploration of the "landscape of hysteria," as in The White Hotel, but the book fails to justify its exploitation of Brontë's story and name. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
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