Author: Charlotte Bronte
Published: Originally in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co.
Source: Personal copy
Most are familiar with the story of Jane Eyre, but for those who are not: A poor orphan girl despised by her immediate relations, Jane spends the early part of her life being tortured by her cousins and displeasing her aunt. Jane's aunt finally decides to send her away to boarding school, where Jane has the opportunity to become more independent. After eight years at Lowood, she decides to strike out on her own as a governess, and is hired at Thornfield. As she gets to know the owner of the mansion, Mr. Rochester, sympathy and friendship develop between them, but Thornfield Hall holds some shocking secrets.
This is my third read of Jane Eyre, and honestly each time I read it I enjoy it more. My first reading was in high school, where I remember liking the story and subsequently forgetting it. Because I forgot it, when I came across the book again in college, I decided to read it again. I enjoyed it even more, but still forgot most of the plot, so when I read it this time around, there were many aspects that seemed new to me. I'm not sure why this particular book doesn't stay in my memory very well, because I do really enjoy it. I am just happy that my book club chose the book for this month's selection so I could have the chance to revisit it yet again.
Jane Eyre is somewhat slow-paced and meditative. The story is told in the first person, something I personally haven't seen much in classic literature, although I have barely scratched the surface of classics and am by no means an authority on the subject. We really are admitted into her thoughts and ruminations on every subject, a process that can be lengthy, but is always interesting. Right now I am reading a book called AfterWord where several authors write imaginary conversations with deceased authors. I would have liked to talk with Charlotte Bronte and find out if she is similar in personality and temperament to Jane, because I don't know how else Jane's voice could seem so real. Jane is very developed - she has her quirks and idiosyncrasies, her likes and dislikes. Her voice is very distinct and full of personality. I loved the descriptions of Jane's fanciful paintings - I think those more than anything showed her personality. I wish I could see them. Aspiring artists - do you think maybe you could reproduce them and have an exhibit of "imagined paintings of Jane Eyre" or something like that? Because that would be awesome.
I also adored Mr. Rochester. He is not your typical Prince Charming - described as ugly, known to have committed some appalling acts (I won't reveal them for those who are not familiar with the story), yet passionate, tender, and delightfully devious. (I think the gypsy scene in the book is absolutely brilliant). I could gush about him, but instead I will refer you to my last blog hop post, where I waxed fan-girly on the subject.
As I participate in the Victorian Literature Challenge, I am starting to gain an appreciation of what Victorian lit really is. I've read a fair amount of it, but I've never studied or really identified it before. This book was fantastically spooky with harrowing descriptions of maniacal laughter and images of frightening scenes, such as bed drapes alight in flame. The genre is appealing to me more and more, and I can't wait to read more of it.
I think Jane Eyre is one of those must-read classics. The writing and characterization is fantastic, and the plot is mysterious and enticing, despite its slow pace.