Thursday, March 29, 2012
Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
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...
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.
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??!!