Book Club, Brontë, Literature, Reviews

Sophie in the Shadows by Gabrielle Molyneux

Sophie in the Shadows is an intriguing re-telling of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre which shifts the focus onto a minor character from the original novel. In Charlotte’s tale, Sophie is a French nursemaid to the child Jane is hired to be a governess to at Thornfield Hall. This novel fleshes Sophie’s character out a bit more, providing her history as well as her current predicament.

Before we move on to a review of the novel, let’s hear from the author herself, Gabrielle Molyneaux, about her novel, influences, and love of the Brontës. This is what she told me in May 2023 –

“I have been a lover of all things Brontë since I was a child, ever since receiving my Brontë Sisters Collection book from my mom. It was the best Christmas present ever. One Friday night, around 11pm, my dad woke me up to tell me that the 1939 movie of Wuthering Heights was being broadcast on a local TV station. I was 13 years old and it was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen. It was so moving that I cried my little heart out. The musical score still brings tears to my eyes even now – Cathy’s Theme by Alfred Newman is such a beautiful piece of music.

After that, I watched every movie and adaptation of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre that I could find. I loved them all and have reread and rewatched Jane Eyre over a dozen times. I never want the stories to end.

“I was always curious about Sophie…”

Gabrielle Molyneux (2023)

I was always curious about Sophie, the French nursemaid. With such a small part in the story (a few words) why was she even mentioned at all? Who was she? Was she lonely? I related to her in her loneliness, she was a foreigner and didn’t really fit in. In one adaption, she is not even mentioned.

As a teenager, I felt sad for her and wished that I could one day write a book to give her her own story. I wanted her to be happy and loved. To know romance,  passion and true love. The same things that I dreamed of as that lonely teenager. Thankfully, we both found a happy ending.”

Although Sophie is the focus inn Molyneux’s novel, familiar ground is travelled as the majority of the tale unfolds during Jane’s time at Thornfield Hall. Instead of following Jane, we see events from Sophie’s perspective as she remains in the shadows of Thornfield.

Sophie in the Shadows is nicely written and paced, although I admit that I tore through the second half much faster than the first. However, this may be because I’m such a huge fan of Charlotte’s novel and so the familiar parts were always going to be my favourite. Opinions of the depiction of Mr Rochester in this novel will largely depend on your view of him in Jane Eyre. For me, as one of his defenders, this was my least favourite part.

I really enjoyed the fleshing out of Grace Poole’s character in particular, but I think my favourite aspect of Gabrielle Molyneux’s novel is the fact that despite it being set in familiar settings and circumstances, I never knew where the story was going to take Sophie, and whether she would ever step out of the shadows. Reader, I really enjoyed Sophie in the Shadows.

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.

Sophie in the Shadows is available to purchase now. The above is an honest review after I purchased the novel.


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