Unearthly Things
PublisherWhole Story Audiobooks
Date Published01 November 2017
Price£ 20.41

Unearthly Things

by Michelle Gagnon (narrated by Michi Barall)

Newly-orphaned Janie Mason is transplanted from Hawaii to San Francisco following her parents’ death, but there are strange undercurrents to life in her new family’s opulent mansion.


Janie Mason’s world is ripped apart when her beloved parents are killed in an accident. She’s deeply in shock when the family lawyer explains that under the terms of her parents’ will, Janie’s new guardian is Mr Rochester, an old friend of her father’s who Janie has never heard of, let alone met. She has to give up her beach life in Hawaii for a large, impersonal mansion in San Francisco and a family she knows nothing about.

The only person in the Rochester family who seems to like Janie is young Nicholas, a strange, lonely child who seems convinced he’s still seeing and talking to his dead twin sister, Eliza. And that’s not the only creepy thing about Janie’s new home. Lying in bed at night she hears strange noises in the attic above her bedroom and sees an even stranger ball of light in a lonely corridor.

Janie is shunned by the Rochesters’ daughter Georgiana, but makes a friend in the attractive Daniel, who shares her passion for surfing. But Janie’s life is further complicated by the return from boarding school of the family’s oldest son, John, and it’s immediately obvious that there’s very bad blood between Daniel and the supercilious, equally attractive John. The romance angle never really takes centre stage, though, and I liked the ambiguity of Janie’s relationships with both Daniel and John. Nothing is neatly tied up with a bow on top, and for me, that was a strength in the story, not a weakness.

Janie, the daughter of a white American father and a Filipina mother, is a feisty, engaging main character who’s determined to get to the bottom of what’s going on in the Rochester mansion, but things take a sinister turn when a fire destroys her bedroom one night. Suspicion falls on Janie herself, but she wonders if young Nicholas is to blame, as his behaviour has ben somewhat challenging in the past. And that’s just the start of Janie’s problems with the Rochester family.

Unearthly Things takes a contemporary, sideways look at Charlotte Brontë’s darkly brooding classic Jane Eyre, transplanting the story from the windswept moors to the bright sunshine of San Francisco. This isn’t a retelling, more a very loose reimagining that takes some of the elements of the original and remixes them whilst adding a strong dash of originality.

I was thoroughly caught up in Janie’s story. Unearthly Things is a complex young adult drama, with darkly Gothic undertones and a sharp edge of otherworldliness, all perfectly narrated by Michi Barall, who shifts effortlessly between male and female, old and young, conjuring up vivid mind pictures of each character. Michelle Gagnon pulls off this thoroughly modern take on the original and there are plenty of surprises, even if you do know it.

Reviewed 15 June 2019 by Linda Wilson