BOOK REVIEW: “All Hallows at Eyre Hall” by Luccia Gray
By Susan Marie Molloy
I’ll cut to the chase:
All Hallows at Eyre Hall by Luccia Gray is exciting, masterfully written, and left me cheering for, and sometimes scowling at, all the characters within, while gleefully enjoying the twists and surprises of the story and character development.
When we left off with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in the 1840s, Jane was pretty much a blasé, spineless jellyfish in a sea of scandal and mysteries. The Byronic Edward Fairfax Rochester was morally bankrupt with an insane first wife, and overall, he was not as nice a man as Jane would have been lead to believe. What has become of Jane, Edward, et al?
Luccia Gray picked up the story in All Hallows at Eyre Hall. We find it is two decades later, in 1860s England, and Jane is stronger; she is a busy, modern, mature woman within a difficult marriage to the still-despicable Edward. Jane realizes that Edward’s failings and infamous perverse past – illegitimate issue included – leads her to no longer loving him, and yet, although outside circumstances entice her towards a happier life without him, she at least publicly remains steadfast as his devoted wife. Privately, yet inappropriately, she falls in love with a much younger man. Edward’s brother-in-law, Richard Mason (brother of Edward’s first wife) returns, and he attempts to wheedle his way into the estate.
All Hallows is believable and well-written, true to the “voice” of Brontë, and well-researched. In fact, at times I thought Charlotte Brontë was writing this; that is how fabulous a writer Luccia Gray is. This is not to say that she is a copy-cat writer. No, the author understands and “gets” the flavor, feel, and construction of Brontë’s work – an honor to a classic author, and thus, that is how sequels should be written. Bravo!
Written as a rotating narrative, the reader will find the richness of each character’s soul, perception, and thoughts conveyed in the first person. Indeed, my favorite chapter that reflects a breathless and soulful first-person narrative is “The Funeral.”
I especially enjoyed references by the characters within All Hallows to contemporary events and literature. Within the pages we correctly discover that Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is Queen Victoria’s favorite poet laureate. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is discussed by the characters (though the novel was published about fifteen years before All Hallows events), and mention was made of David Copperfield. This is real life between the fictional pages.
All Hallows is peppered with French phrases and sentences. This is wonderfully placed and true to novels written at the time of Brontë, et al. It is not unusual to read English language books published at that time that are interleaved with French. Educated writers and readers were well-versed in French, so to see and read it within English-language novels was not uncommon.
Luccia Gray is a beautifully descriptive writer. I sensed a need to don my wool cape when she wrote: “ . . . the horizon is grey, the air smells of damp weeds, and the wind is cold and furious . . .” I felt the almost imperceptible warmth on my face when “ . . . the sun . . . was suddenly visible, pale and low on the distant horizon.” Through her descriptions, I was there – right there.
On All Hallows Eve (Hallowe’en), several characters related ghost stories that intrigued me. I felt I was there in the room with them, nighttime with tallow candles burning and throwing otherworldly shadows across the walls. The cakes baked and eaten during All Hallows reflect the custom of placing certain colored buttons within, portending the future of each person who finds one in his slice. These events wonderfully relate old customs not seen much since.
Within the chapter, “A Letter from the Past,” the author brought me to early mornings at Eyre Hall. There is the perfectly-described organized morning with servants preparing breakfast, cleaning, and the mistress of the estate busying herself with accounting books and writing letters. I found myself re-reading this portion to revel in the clear images brought to my mind.
There was only one sentence early in the novel that confused me and caused me to re-read several times to understand its meaning: “Mothers should not spend too much time with the male siblings, as they soften their minds . . .” I thought the word “sibling” should be “offspring” or “child” or some such familial label. I thought Edward was discussing his distaste for Jane’s devotion to their son, not a brother, as I understood the sentence.
Overall, All Hallows at Eyre Hall by Luccia Gray is an exquisitely written, well-researched, and well-conveyed continuation of Jane Eyre. I am anticipating the next novel, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, which is due out this fall.
I give five brilliantly shining stars out of five to All Hallows at Eyre Hall by Luccia Gray.
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