Reader, I Murdered Him
by Betsy Cornwell
read by Elisabeth Lagelee
Blackstone Publishing, 2022. 8 hours, 20 minutes.
Review written May 29, 2023, from a library eaudiobook.
Oh, I love this book so much!
Mind you, as a teen, I listed Jane Eyre as one of my favorite books. So romantic! But rereading it years later as an adult, I noticed some things that disturbed me about the romance. Retellings, such as the science fiction Brightly Burning or the fantasy My Plain Jane more clearly pointed out some of the problematic details.
But this one! Oh, how it turns the story on its head, but feels so right in doing so.
The viewpoint character of this book is Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ward, the daughter of a dancer and prostitute in Paris. We start with Adele’s happy life in Paris, but then her mother, who is dying of consumption, gives her over to Mr. Rochester to make her English and one day be well cared for.
At Thornfield, Adele meets Bertha, the woman locked in the attic, who sometimes roams the house at night, but learns never to speak of her. And then Jane Eyre comes to Thornfield and into both Mr. Rochester’s and Adele’s lives. She is the closest thing to a mother Adele has had in years, and takes her into her heart. And she begins writing to Mr. Rochester’s 13-year-old cousin in Jamaica to improve her English, and gains a confidant.
After Jane leaves, Adele has a bad experience at a boarding school, but after her return, Jane does the work to find an excellent one for her. There at Webster school most of this book takes place. But at a party, when Adele comes across a man molesting one of her classmates on a balcony, she becomes a murderess. But because a young man speaks up for her, the story that this is an accident takes hold.
And then, through an interesting set of circumstances, when Adele is unsettled by what she’s done and upset by the power of ruthless young men, she makes a connection with a girl of the streets, a pickpocket and thief named Nan. She asks Nan to teach her some skills, and they work together in the style of Robin Hood, giving some of the worst young men their comeuppance, fashioning herself as a protector of her friends at school. And as they are doing that, she falls in love with Nan.
And that takes you quite far into the book, so I’m going to have to stop. But let me say that I completely loved things that happened past that point in the book, how Adele’s story played out, and the further insights we got into the characters we’d met in Jane Eyre.
Yes, there are some sex scenes, and the title itself warns you about the violence. Perhaps I shouldn’t like this book as much as I do?
Here is a happily ever after indeed.
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