Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 6:35 pm by M. in ,    No comments
Several news outlets report the death of the writer Emma Tennant (1937-2017). She was a prolific author of novels, editor of journals (with quite a colourful life which deserves its own novel) and a conspicuous writer of post-modern (or so they were often described) sequels of Jane Austen novels. She also entered the Brontë arena with a couple of sequels of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

In 2002 she published Adèle. Jane Eyre's Hidden Story which retells the story of Jane Eyre from Adèle's perspective:
The daughter of a celebrated Parisian actress, Adèle is a homesick, forlorn eight-year-old when first brought to Thornfield Hall by Edward Fairfax Rochester, her mother's former lover. Lonely and ill at ease in the unfamiliar English countryside, she longs to return to the glitter of Paris ... and to the mother who has been lost to her. But a small ray of sunshine brightens her eternal gloom when a stranger arrives to care for her: a serious yet intensely loving young governess named Jane Eyre.
As time passes, Adèle watches with wonder as an unexpected romance blossoms between her governess and her guardian -- even as her curiosity leads her deeper into the shadowy manor, toward the dark and terrible secret that is locked away in a high garret. And on Jane and Rochester's wedding day, it is Adèle who brings about the fiery catastrophe that will shatter her "family" and send her fleeing, frightened and alone, back to Paris.
The novel was republished in 2006 as The French Dancer's Bastard. The Story of Adèle from Jane Eyre and yet again in 2007 as Thornfield Hall. Jane Eyre's Hidden Story. In a way it is surprising that there were so many editions after the rather appalling reviews that the novel received quite systematically.

Somewhat more critically successful was her Wuthering Heights sequel: Heathcliff's Tale published in 2005:
Emma Tennant's new novel, Heathcliff's Tale, brings together a chilling ghost story, a literary mystery, and a satire of Brontë academic studies. It is the story of the haunting of Henry Newby, a hapless young lawyer despatched to Haworth Parsonage shortly after the death of Emily Brontë to retrieve a novel by Ellis Bell for his uncle, publisher of Wuthering Heights. He soon finds himself adrift in a sea of possibilities: are the pages which burn on the study fire the work of fiction which his uncle awaits, or, as he believes, do they comprise the confessions of a wicked man, a murderer who has brought destruction and misery to all he meets? Who is this Heathcliff who spills his black soul among the flames and ashes?
Fact and fiction are intertwined as we are confronted with the enigma of Emily Brontë. How could a young woman with no apparent experience of passion or knowledge of evil, have summoned up Heathcliff? Can evil be passed from one generation to the next? Or is it born out of deprivation and despair? Does it linger, long after the death of the evil-doer-and can it haunt chillingly through the pages of a book?


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