For What It's Worth

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers...


Review:

I haven't been able to make it through one classic novel since high school - which was a very, very, very long ago and only when it was required reading. My eyes glaze over after a few pages. I just cannot get into the writing style or time period.

My blogger friends Julie and Alex invited me to join their read-a-long of Jane Eyre, splitting the novel into 10 chapters per week over a month with weekly email discussions. I tried joining a read-a-long for David Copperfield by Charles Dickens last year and never made it past page 50 so I didn't hold out much hope.

But…..

I made it! I finally finished AND enjoyed a classic!

Since so many people have already read and loved Jane Eyre, I'm not going to get into the specifics of the plot. Most of you already know what happens. These are just a few observations from someone who struggled with but ultimately enjoyed the novel.

I didn't get off to a great start. I had a tough time getting though the first 10 chapters. Jane leads an awful life and I felt an enormous amount of sympathy for her but I had a difficult time feeling any real connection to Jane. She views almost everything through the prism of how things affect her. This sounds horrible of me because things are terrible for her and at such a young age but I kind of wanted her to stop droning on about how everyone hates her. I know….I know……I'm a terrible person. I didn't start connecting with her character until she finally got to Thornfield and met Mr. Rochester and his staff.

Mr. Rochester. Now there's a really complex character. One thing I loved about him was that when he loves - he loves passionately. He declares it from the rooftops and doesn't care what anyone thinks. Societal judgment be damned. Of course that causes problems since he's already married and all.

Like Jane, I think he views everyone else through this narrow prism of how he has been wronged in the past. Unlike kind, loving Jane though, I think Mr. Rochester has less ground to stand on. He talks about the various women who have hurt him but when he gets the chance to form a relationship he lies or in the case of poor Adele and Bertha, is outright mean. He does this extraordinarily kind thing by taking them both in and then proceeds to say cruel things or ignore them completely.

I think I can see now who almost every brooding man in current literature is based on. He embodies all the passive aggressive behavior - the "I'm not worthy & only you can make me worthy" declarations of half the men in my HR/PNR's. Ironically, I find Jane is much spunkier and independant than most of today's heroines. Hmmmm.

I had an up and down relationship with Jane and Rochester throughout the book. I ended up loving them both and their growth as individuals. They really go through A LOT and are complex and messy in ways that most novels today just don't allow their characters to be. 

I'll just touch on a few more random things.

* Jane is ugly. How do I know this? Because about 100 people tell her TO HER FACE that she is ugly. What is up with that? Is this common in classic literature? Of that time period? It’s not even during a fight or by a mean person all of the time. Otherwise very nice people say “Hello Jane, nice to meet you – oh my you’re ugly.”

*There was a touch of paranormal throughout the story and it never quite worked for me. I kept expecting some big reveal about ghosts or something. I wish it was either explored further or not brought up at all.

*After Mr. Rochester's declaration of love to Jane I think he went off the deep end. lol What was that?? He's happy I know. I'm happy for them but he went from 0-100 in the span of 1 or 2 pages and I kept thinking…."who is this person?" I think I would have ran away if I was Jane. Or spiked his drink with a sedative.

* Despite that outburst I was totally sold on them as a couple by the end. They wouldn't have been right for each other if they had married earlier in the book. Jane still wasn't her own person and Rochester wasn't ready to surrender his control and love freely yet.

*I loved how Jane stood by her faith and her convictions. She never wavered. Ever. Not even if it meant losing the love of her life. She’s a great role model for today’s women.

* Adele. Poor little Adele. I felt so bad for her for most of this book. Rochester ignores her then Jane storms off leaving her with Mr. R. Sad :-( Surprisingly she rises above and turns out just fine.

Rating: 3 out of 4 I still had a rough time reading with the overly descriptive prose and that period of time doesn’t appeal to me as a reader but I really enjoyed Jane Eyre. I think when you have two compelling characters such as Jane and Rochester it helps you overcome any hurdles you might have. I also loved being able to discuss my progress with Julie & Alex. We each noticed different things and had different points of view each week which helped me understand both Jane & Rochester better. It also helped me get through any parts that were becoming a struggle for me.

What are your favorite classic novels? Which ones should I try next? Are there any that aren't 600 pages long??!!

23 comments:

  1. I was worried I wouldn't be able to get into it either. At times it was long & prosey, but I love the story & how two people who'd had rough lives found each other. While some people didn't like the newest Jane Eyre movie, I thought they did a good job of showing everything but cutting out the unnecessary, so I recommend it.

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    1. The story is so good and the characters so complicated that it keeps you going throughout the slower parts.
      I've heard great things about the movie so I'm looking forward to seeing it.

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  2. I thought the actors were great. Jane Eyre is definitely one of my favorite classics. I saw there was a modern YA retelling called Jane, by April Lindner. I haven't read it yet, but I'm definitely interested.

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    1. I read that one last year - http://www.fwiwreviews.net/2011/01/review-jane-by-april-linder.html I really liked it but I wasn't comparing it to this one. It captures the story really well while still modernizing it. It stayed true to the original now that I've read Bronte's version.

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  3. After reading your review, I'm even more excited to read it.

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  4. Yeah you read it and loved it. Swoon over Rochester and great review. Now what to read next LOL

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    1. I really liked Rochester but I have to be honest and say I don't really swoon over him.

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  5. I'm glad you enjoy JE. It's one of my favorites - top 5 status for sure. For a shorter classic with interesting characters I recommend A Room with a View. It's British lit but a different time period and partly set in Italy.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation. Adds to list ;-)

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  6. Haha. this is one of the only classics I've read - sadly though I didn't like it much. Classics aren't my thing I think I just don't get them haha. Glad you liked it though! :)

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    1. I enjoyed it but there were a few times I almost gave up. lol

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  7. * applauds* :D I read this for a lit class and loved it, but it's like this one and 2 Jane Austens, and that is all I have read

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  8. I can't do classics so I have no recommendations for you sadly. I can't get through the writing styles either but congrats on completing Jane Eyre and liking it!

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  9. So glad you liked it! I love this book, too, but I dislike all the parts you dislike. When I read it, I skip Jane's childhood entirely--it's dull and harsh in equal parts, so it's not for me. And I had also hoped that there was a touch of the truly supernatural in the story, but other than Jane hearing Mr. R's feelings from across the country, nothing's full-on paranormal.

    But, oh. These two. I heart them, despite everything else. The 2006-ish miniseries version of Jane Eyre is the /perfect/ adaptation of the story--you must see it if you get the chance.

    I'd vote for Pride and Prejudice next. A serious classic, but totally entertaining.

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  10. I LOVE Jane Eyre--I'm glad you ended up enjoying it overall, Karen! You might give THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL the next time you feel like trying out a classic--that one is very romantic and lighthearted. It's never included in classics list, and I think it's because it happens to be so much fun, hah.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Lighthearted? My interest is peaked!

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  11. Congratulations! :) I have Jane Eyre on my shelf but haven't forced myself to read it yet. I've watched several versions on TV, and read a revamped sci-fi version called Jenna Starborn. Maybe one day. Good job getting through it.

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    1. I think it was made easier because of the read-a-long. We didn't make a big deal out of it with scheduled posts or anything. It was nice to be able to have someone to discuss it with but not make a big deal out of it.

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  12. I admit it, I'm not a fan of the classics and I feel so bad about it as I feel I should be reading them, that I should be enjoying them and yet I don't. Oh well, perhaps I just haven't found the right author(s) yet - I just know that the Brontes aren't my cup of tea.

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    1. I'm not sure I will ever truly be in love with classics but I'll try a few more. My husband loves Wuthering Heights so I'll probably try that one at some point.

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  13. I'm actually taking a Masters level class this semester that based entirely on the works of Charlotte Bronte. I think I've read Jane Eyre at least three times by now. It's one of my favorite classics! Another one is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It's a lesser known classic, but when I read it four or five years ago I fell in love with it!

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  14. Yeah! I am a Jane Eyre fan- so I am glad it was a book you enjoyed and were able to finish. I thought your insights were fascinating. I have read a lot of classics (especially back in high school). A friend and I started a classics book club a few years ago to read the books we hadn't. Jane Eyre was our first one- and we both loved it. Next was Moby Dick. Sadly, neither of us ever finished it and it ended our little book club (I even tried reading in in Cape Cod). So, I would say to skip Moby Dick. Around the World in 80 Days is short and easy to read!

    ~Jess
    http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com/

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    1. I think I need to stay to the lighter fair when it comes to classics. I do remember reading & enjoying Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies and The Scarlett Letter back in HS.

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