Mr. Rochester

For nearly six years, I’ve been holding onto Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker. This novel is a retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre—my favorite classic novel, and one I just reread earlier this month. This January I’m doing a fun little Jane Eyre reading challenge (I’m calling it “Janeuary”), and the first retelling I selected was Mr. Rochester. It only seems fitting that we hear his side of the story!


In Jane Eyre, Edward Fairfax Rochester is a captivating and complicated man with a dark and multilayered past. Though we can only see him through Jane’s lens, it’s clear that there’s so much more to the man than he lets on. In Mr. Rochester, Sarah Shoemaker brings Edward’s own story to life. From his lonely childhood to his series of eccentric mentors, from his disastrous marriage to Bertha to his tentative relationship with Jane, this novel paints a portrait of a man who’s made mistakes yet continuously tries to do the right thing. Throughout his wayward life, he’s only wanted love and a sense of home. Mr. Rochester shows Edward’s rocky journey to finally finding both.


After recently rereading Jane Eyre, I really wanted to get a look inside Mr. Rochester’s head, partially to understand his often perplexing behavior! Why does he say and do the things he does? What was he like before he knew Jane? In Sarah Shoemaker’s Mr. Rochester, we get a retelling that offers some of Edward’s backstory and a portrayal of all his deepest feelings. I’ve had this book on my shelf since 2017, and I’m glad I finally read it now.

Like Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester is told in the first person and follows his life from childhood through his relationship with Jane. Indeed, like her story, his is set up like a sort of autobiography. It’s divided into three parts: The first covers Edward’s childhood and teenage years; the second follows his time in Jamaica; and the third encompasses everything from his return to Europe through his relationship with Jane. If you’re looking for the scenes between Edward and Jane, you’ll have to wait until you’re more than 300 pages in! Be patient, because the lead-up to that is engrossing in its own right.

Edward is shown to be a rather lonely boy. He grows up in Thornfield Hall, a place he loves completely, but his older brother is a bully and his father is neglectful. His mother died in childbirth. When Edward is eight, he’s sent to an unconventional school—he’s one of only a handful of students—where an eccentric man teaches his pupils about the world. Later, Edward moves on to be an apprentice in a worsted mill, and later still, he gets a college education at Trinity College, Cambridge. Throughout it all, Edward makes friends and forms close relationships with his mentors. And yet, again and again, he loses these kind people, always ending up alone once more.

In the second part of Mr. Rochester, readers get a full look at Edward’s time in Jamaica and his relationship with Antoinetta Bertha Mason. Edward, now a young adult, is still trying to form close connections, and he thinks he may have found it with Bertha. He becomes fairly successful with the sugar plantation there—though he is (rightfully) uncomfortable with the entire institution of slavery; I appreciate his resistance to it and his small efforts in making some change in that regard. Even with that success, though, his marriage is rapidly crumbling, mainly due to his wife’s unpredictable and violent behavior. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester’s choice to keep his mad wife hidden away upstairs may seem highly questionable. Here, we get valuable insight into Edward’s reasoning for acting as he did. Indeed, he aims to do right by her, and that proves to be the best option for her.

Finally, several chapters into part three, Edward meets his ward Adèle’s new governess, Jane Eyre. This is the part I was waiting for, and I suspect many other readers will be eagerly anticipating their scenes together, too. Many events and much of the dialogue will be familiar to anyone who’s read Jane Eyre, and I love how we get to see everything from Edward’s perspective. As perplexing as he may seem, he has his reasons. He also seems to think his actions as far more reasonable than they may look from the outside.

Throughout my reading of Mr. Rochester, I was struck by how calm and rational his character seems here. He comes across as gentle and craving companionship, as smart and hard-working and a bit socially awkward. He’s not quite so random and playful and talkative as he sometimes is in Jane Eyre. Here, we get a look at his more level-headed and brooding side.

The language and tone of Mr. Rochester are a good match for Jane Eyre, and it’s exciting to see his side of the story. The author describes him a bit differently than I would have (not that I have any experience writing fiction!), and I was surprised by some of her choices. But overall, this is an interesting and nuanced look at a fascinating character.

Final Thoughts

Mr. Rochester is an engrossing and tender story of one of literature’s most enthralling men. It gives Edward a much-deserved chance to share his background and perspective, and makes for a wonderful companion to Jane Eyre. While it goes in some surprising directions, it’s ultimately a heartwarming novel that stands up admirably beside its inspiration.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy Mr. Rochester here – it’s available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
Retelling Of…Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
GenreHistorical Fiction
SettingEngland; Jamaica
Number of Pages453
Format I ReadHardcover
Original Publication DateMay 9, 2017

Official Summary

A gorgeous, deft literary retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s beloved Jane Eyre—through the eyes of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself.

“Reader, she married me.”

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender—professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next—Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker’s rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward’s eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men—and women—who will someday be his peers.

But much as he longs to be accepted—and to return to the home where he was born—his father has made clear that Thornfield is reserved for his older brother, Rowland, and that Edward’s inheritance lies instead on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica. That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and not long after his arrival, Edward finds himself entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town’s ravishing heiress, Antoinetta Bertha Mason.

Eventually, after a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain, young governess who will teach him how to love again.

It is impossible not to watch enthralled as this tender-hearted child grows into the tormented hero Brontë immortalized—and as Jane surprises them both by stealing his heart. Mr. Rochester is a great, sweeping, classic coming-of-age story, and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë’s original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre.

About the Author

Sarah Shoemaker - Credit Kent Shoemaker

Credit: Kent Shoemaker

Sarah Shoemaker grew up in a suburb of Chicago and now lives in a little village in northern Michigan. When she was in the third grade, she knew she wanted to be a writer, but it has been a long and circuitous path to get there. She has been a teacher, a wife, a stay-at-home mom, a librarian and, finally, a published writer.

CHILDREN OF THE CATASTROPHE is her most recent book. Coming out September 6, 2022, it is a historical novel about family, about love and loss, and about courage and survival. Her previous novel, MR. ROCHESTER, told the story of the strange, sometimes imperious, sometimes playful, man that Jane Eyre fell in love with. In the case if both books, Sarah has written stories that she herself would want to read. As Toni Morrison wrote: “If you really want to read a book but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

More Books By Sarah Shoemaker

Sarah Shoemaker - Children of the Catastrophe

More Jane Eyre Stories

Jane Eyre

The first classic novel I profoundly connected with when I was young was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I was a high school junior then,…

Rate this:

The Wife Upstairs

This month has been all about Jane Eyre and retellings of it! Following my reread of the classic and a retelling called Mr. Rochester, my…

Rate this:

Jane & Edward

A few months ago, I reread my favorite classic novel, Jane Eyre. It’s as perfect as I’d remembered, and I wanted to then explore some…

Rate this:

One thought on “Mr. Rochester

Add yours


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: