We've read the classics in a chaste, good school-girl kind of way, but you’ll be surprised with what Eve Sinclair has done with Jane Eyre Laid Bare. She’s put the brooding, smouldering yet so consciously controlled sexuality in Thornfield Hall and it is quite a delight. Her insouciance brings the docile Jane Eyre out of Lowood and into Mr Rochester’s arms with coquettish ease. But be warned – this Jane Eyre’s is all sexed up, and a way lot smarter than Bronte’s protagonist. The eroticised classic is quite an interesting read – for one, this certainly can undo a Christian Grey. Just make sure you keep it away from the real schoolgirls, though.Jhinuk Sen talks to author Eve Sinclair about her 'sexed up' classic.
Does sexing up a classic have anything to do with the sudden obsession for 50 Shades of Grey?
Well, yes, of course it’s all about timing. I think that it’s great that the 50 Shades books have opened up the debate about how women like to read about sex within the context of a love story. I think the more women discuss their sexuality and sensuality openly, the healthier for everyone.
What got you to pick a Charlotte Bronte book? And particularly Jane Eyre?
I have always loved the classics and Jane Eyre is certainly one of my favourites. At university I wrote an essay on the eroticism between Jane and Rochester, which gave me the idea for Jane Eyre Laid Bare.
Jane Eyre has been one of the choice classic picks for most girls during the school years - why?
For fun and to shed a different light on the original, which is still the best story about a young girl falling in love with a much more experienced older man and getting her fingers burnt. A story structure that’s been copied countless times since in women’s fiction and, at the heart of it, is the same story structure of books like 50 Shades of Grey. We always used to laugh in school about how naughty Jane Eyre would be if the true meaning of those highly charged erotic scenes was evident, so that’s where the idea came from. I’m sure many school girls have thought the same thing.
What got you thinking that Jane Eyre - the novel and the character needed ‘sexing up’ ?
The original Jane Eyre – the novel and the character – doesn’t ‘need’ anything and the smouldering undercurrent of sensuality is wonderfully written. My idea was never to replace the original, only to shed a different light on it for a 21st century audience. I approached this whole project rather like a theater director might approach putting Shakespeare in a modern setting.
There were several different versions of Jane Eyre even in Bronte’s own lifetime, so tinkering with her classic is nothing new. In post-modern culture there’s ‘mash-ups’ in all forms of art, especially in music, for example. There was a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies where the author took Jane Austen’s words and put a zombie story-line with it. If we can have a mash up of a classic with the horror genre, why not a classic with eroticism? Personally, I think it’s much more shocking to have Austen’s characters having their faces ripped up by the undead, than Jane Eyre having a bit of sex.
How do you think the ‘conventionalists’ will react to Jane Eyre Laid Bare?
I’m sure people will react to it in many ways and it certainly does seem to be a topic of conversation, which I think is a good thing. My feeling is that if people don’t like the idea, and are getting their proverbial knickers in a twist about it, then they don’t have to read it. My intention was certainly never to replace the original, as I’ve said, or to cause offense.
Would this fall in the mommy porn bracket?
Mommy Porn is one of those labels that has become all-embracing, like Chick Lit did and it seems a bit dismissive and condescending. I think reading about sex within an emotionally engaging story is a much better way for women - and not necessarily mothers, but younger women too - to get their ideas about sex, rather than all the generic and often abusive internet porn out there. This has really opened up the debate about how women get turned on by words, in a way that men, apparently don’t.
Why stick to the classic language yet talk about things that Bronte would have never written about...
I stuck to Bronte’s text and actually added very little. Once you start reading Jane Eyre like an erotic novel – it is one, and that was certainly half the fun. As far as Bronte never writing about sex goes – well, of course she couldn’t, she was writing hundreds of years ago in a totally different time. That said, she certainly wanted Jane Eyre to shock, which is why she published it first under a pen name.
Any other classics you might ‘sex-up’?
I’m discussing some with my publishers, but Jane Eyre was the most obvious text for me. If it brings new readers to the much-loved original classic, then all the better, as far as I’m concerned.