The current popularity of comics, manga and graphic novels has prepared a fertile readership for Classic Graphic Novel Collections, Lucent's new series of faithfully rendered yet accessible versions of curricular texts. This version of Bronte's novel is among three nineteenth-century British novels treated for the series, and it is the most visually appealing in its depictions of the uncertain role of an unmarried woman as governess in a Victorian household.
The art is the most painterly of that found in the five volumes in the series, offering an accomplished, impressionistic quality reminiscent of Renoir. But there is an edgy quality to the illustration, as well. Throughout the work, sketchy panels with visible crosshatching and mono-chromaticism are used deliberately. Breaks in the frame and precise attention to the shape of Regency bonnets and nineteenth-century dressmaking details out of the Victoria and Albert Museum also add interest and extend the meaning of Bronte's text.
Also deliberate are the palette choices, with unrelenting gloom defining the institutional nature of Lowood School in stark contrast with the rich, warm interiors of Thornfield Hall. The panels capture the muscular cruelty of Jane's cousins, the Reeds at Gateshead Hall, as well as the subtle social nuances of Rochester's circle. Rochester is drawn as square-jawed and brooding, and the images of his moonlit courtship of Jane will appeal to teen girl shojo fans. Both the nocturnal mischief of Mr. Rochester's wife Bertha and the death of Jane's school friend, Helen, take on a particularly dark quality that will appeal to teens.
Two pages at the beginning depict the cast of characters charmingly, as a portrait gallery replete with idiosyncratic portraiture showcased in an assortment of gilt frames. This graphic novel version is not light on text, but expert integration of both speech and exposition makes the novel easy to read. Along with the other titles in the series, Jane Eyre does subvert one typographic convention usual for comics and graphic novels by using boldface to indicate words defined in the glossary at the end of the book. Readers may initially interpret the bold lettering to indicate emphasis until the subsequent repetition of boldface in successive iterations of the words indicates otherwise.
In addition to the glossary, there is an introductory note, a three-page biography, a Bronte family tree, and a chronology of Charlotte Bronte's life. This adaptation offers support for students struggling with Bronte's nineteenth century vocabulary and sentence structure. Like the four other titles in the Classic Graphic Novel Collection series, Jane Eyre can also be used by a literature teacher in whole-class settings. A document camera would allow a class to anticipate dialogue, describe what happened before and after individual panels, and use chapters of the graphic novel as summaries for review. Recommended for school and public libraries.