Novella review: Miss Elliott and the Eldritch by Laura Neubert (2011)
Alone and haunted by her past, the indomitable Jane Eyre finds herself confronted not only by secrets within herself, but by Eldritch horrors from unfathomable realms. Will she be able to survive the horrors of these beasts and rescue her love Edward Rochester from madness … or worse? Part Brontë and part H.P. Lovecraft, this is a combination not to be missed, and a tale not to be forgotten.
When I was offered to read this by author and illustrator Laura Neubert and the cover designer Joanne Renaud, I was delighted. (Thanks ladies!) Something Jane Eyre and in a horror setting – how intriguing. It spans 70+ pages, so it’s a decent size and what’s more – it’s a take on what happens at Morton. None of that tedious and miserable Lowood stuff, for instance. None of that wonderfully romantic Thornfield stuff either, regrettably, but still, it’s cut straight to the part most of us would probably gladly have chipped away from the original novel if we could.
However. By adding some serious HP Lovecraft vibes into the otherwise sort of dreary Morton stuff, what we get is really good. I enjoyed it tremendously. There is a mysterious “affliction” about and there are creepy beings afoot called “the Eldritch” and they’re not exactly cute and cuddly. Deadly and nightmarish, yes. This is the sort of scenery change Jane is treated to from the gloomy but wonderful times at Thornfield.
And, of course, trying to get over the fact that the love of her life is already married. In Morton, she encounters one of the peasant girls who seems to have been afflicted, and who has an important message for her …
There are many things to be enthusiastic about here. The illustrations may not be that many, but they’re very good and adds to the atmosphere. Also nice to see illustrations at all in something – unless you’re reading a children’s book, you don’t normally find any these days.
Another I really liked was the writing style. For me (at least), it felt as if Charlotte Brontë herself could’ve penned this, but that being said, it doesn’t suffer from her tendency for being verbose. Neubert plays up the Gothic themes, naturally, and it fits the original very well. If Brontë had written horror stories with Lovecraft, this is probably what it would have been like.
The only time it veers off from the original and goes its own direction is in the end, which is a surprise, but it still works well. If I have any criticisms, it would be that I don’t quite understand why the Eldritch’s message for Jane is that important. If they’re some otherworldly race, why is Jane Eyre and her love life so important to them? I don’t get it.
Another, which doesn’t actually count, is that I’m not keen on HP Lovecraft. I had heard about The Necronomicon and Cthulhu before, so I found a collection of short stories (which was called The Necronomicon, as it happens) in my local library and read it. Thought it was pretty lame, to be honest. Every story built up a creepy atmosphere and then … anticlimax. The biggest thing about his monsters is that they’re made up of various body parts and it’s Oh So Incredibly Scary but … I dunno, it just doesn’t work for me. It feels mostly as if it’s a booming voice saying, “LOOK AT HOW SCARY I AM!!!” while nothing else about the creature is all that scary, and one should not judge by looks alone.
And it’s the same thing here. It’s a horrid creature from nightmares, but I don’t really get why I should be scared by it. I want to make it absolutely clear that this is not Neubert’s fault, because she does very well when it comes to describing the creature. If anything, Lovecraft is to blame, as he was the one who invented the creature. It’s like Dean R Koontz’s big, tentacled, black monsters (he too took a leaf out of Lovecraft’s book) or Stephen King’s blood splatter. It’s gross, yes, but it isn’t scary. Same thing with stinky creatures made up of body parts – it might be horrifying, but only in a stomach-turning way, not in the way that’ll make me too scared to fall asleep. If it was seen in real life, okay, that would be deeply disconcerting, but these creatures are fictitious.
Anyway, I ramble again.
If you’re only into Jane Eyre and think that’s quite scary enough for your tastes, give this one a miss. If you’re into Jane Eyre AND Cthulhu, this is definitely 5 out of 5. If you’re into Jane Eyre and horror in general – which is where I come in – it’s a 4 out of 5. It’s a good story well-told, a great take on an otherwise humdrum part of Jane Eyre and it is in keeping with the original characters. If it had been a demon or something like that, I think I would’ve enjoyed it more, but nonetheless, I enjoyed it because it was a new take on Jane Eyre with lots of creepy, Gothic flare. Well worth a read! 🙂
Miss Elliott and the Eldritch is available as a very reasonably priced PDF download at Lulu!