Brightly Burning is a 2018 re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre. What makes this re-telling so unique is that it merges science fiction and young adult fiction to present a modern twist on the tale that is set in space.
Sometime in the future, a new Ice Age has engulfed Earth and forced the population into space where they are split up amongst different ships of varying degrees of luxury and comfort. Seventeen year old Stella Ainsley is unlucky enough to inhabit the dilapidated Stalwart, long rumoured to be the next ship doomed to attempt probable fatal re-entry to a frozen Earth.
Desperate to leave the Stalwart, Stella applies for jobs on other ships, finally receiving an offer of employment from the elegant and wealthy ship, Rochester. Although Stella jumps at the chance, she hears strange rumours about the ship and its captain, Hugo Fairfax, with rumours of hauntings and the fleeing of previous governesses. When Stella discovers a terrible secret onboard, she is forced to make an impossible choice.
Readers familiar with the source material will know how this novel is destined to end, however, there are a few surprises in store along the way as Brightly Burning is not solely a re-telling of Jane Eyre. There’s a hearty mix of science fiction and material from other sources (including Donne’s own creations) which keep things interesting. The opening is a little long, and the ending a little rushed, but the bulk of the novel is solid and intriguing.
Although this is written specifically for a Young Adult audience, at its core it isn’t a bildungsroman that documents the development and growth of its heroine, but is a sprawling hybrid of genres set amongst the stars. Consequently, Stella does not undergo the same kind of journey and changes as Jane does. Whilst this aspect of the parent text may have been lost, the blend of sci-fi, young adult, and romance keeps things fresh and interesting.
Brightly Burning is a clever, unique, and enjoyable update of a classic and I’d recommend giving it a try if you’re a Jane Eyre fan.
In Loving Memory of Bob the Bichon (2007-2019).
A lover of life, the Brontës, and Haworth who knows that I’m just going to write because I can’t help it.Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first