All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

on September 22, 2012

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë
Popular Penguins
2008 (originally 1847), 592p
Read from my TBR pile

Jane Eyre is orphaned at a young age and sent to live with her mother’s brother and his family – her uncle also dies and his wife is none too pleased at having to take over the raising of Jane, even though she promised her late husband she would. Jane is treated poorly, chastised as being full of temper and ungrateful for all she is given and then finally, packed off to a boarding school at age 10. There Jane makes her first friend, begins to learn and spends six years there before taking a job as a teacher herself.

Jane then decides she wants to improve her prospects so she advertises and receives an offer of position as a governess to a young girl at a property known as Thornfield Hall. It will pay double what her salary as a teacher will and Jane farewells the school that has been her home for the past six years and makes the journey to Thornfield. There she finds a Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper and a young girl named Adele who is to be her charge. The master of the hall is often absent but when he does arrive Jane is surprised to find them developing a sort of friendship of sparring wit.

Jane then falls utterly in love with Mr Rochester, something that seems a hopeless situation as she watches him look set to marry a rather glamorous woman. Quite suddenly though it seems that things have changed and Jane’s feelings may be returned and she looks set for utter happiness. That is until on what should be the happiest day of her life turns to heartbreak.

This is Jane Eyre. I don’t really need to spend too much time summarising the plot, it’s one of the most well known books from the last 200 years. It’s been on my TBR pile for about 3.5 years now, and I added it to my list of books I intended to read for The Classics Club to better motivate me to actually read it. I’ve always wanted to….it’s just been one of those things. So many books, so little time! So I finally did read it and I’m about to alienate probably the entire literary blogging world here in one sentence:

I don’t really get it.

I see the potential. I see glimpses of awesomeness and some beautiful writing. But I also see a bit of a hot mess, to be honest. Firstly, this book is too long – my copy is almost 600p and and probably almost 200p seems almost unnecessary, particularly the lengthy bit at the beginning of her childhood and also her time spent at the boarding school. That could’ve been summarised, or explained to someone, the book for me really seems to begin when she ends up at Thornfield Hall. A lot of the prior stuff seems excessive other than to establish Jane’s background as truly pathetic and how alone she is in the world until she first goes to school and makes a friend (who is then taken from her in tragedy).

And then we come to Rochester. I admit, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I guessed he’d be some Darcy-esque type. I was unprepared for the fact that actually, he seems quite mad – eccentric. There were times when I didn’t really like him at all (usually when he was shooing Adele away or being deliberately a jerk, which seemed often) but there were glimmers of a bit of a romance hero in his character somewhere, occasionally they did shine through. I did like some of his and Jane’s conversations and banter but the whole way in which their romance came about was quite odd. I expected a little more teasing, a little more interaction, a little more chemistry. It just wasn’t there for me.

There’s also a lot of coincidence in this book, isn’t there? It’s truly bizarre, the way in which characters end up being connected. For an orphan with it seems, no real family that she knows of other than a vague uncle, Jane pretty much trips over family towards the end of this book everywhere she goes. It’s all very convenient and because she’s Jane and she’s so lovely, when she receives a windfall at the end of the book, of course she feels obliged to share it with her newfound relatives.

I know it sounds like I’m just picking on this book, and that might just be the high expectations society put on me by tagging this such a wonderful, perfect love story. But I was just unable to see it! I wanted so much more out of this book… Maybe I’m just not cut out for these complicated, understated classics?

Anyway. I didn’t actively dislike it, I found it easy enough to read even though it is nearly a whopping 600p and it didn’t make me mad like Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights did. Interestingly a few blogger friends did tell me that this was not their favourite Brontë novel so maybe I’ve just been trying the wrong ones for me so far? I have a couple still on my shelf so I’ll see how I go!

6/10

Book #183 of 2012

Jane Eyre is the third novel completed from my list of 50 classics to read in 5 years for The Classics Club. I’ll admit I’m a little behind – I’m supposed to be reading 1 book a month so I should’ve read 6 or 7 by now but I’m going to attempt to have a classic as my ‘bedtime read’ from now on and read them the way in which I read this one – 100p or so every night before sleep.

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13 responses to “Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

  1. Violet says:

    I think Villette is CB’s masterpiece, but I like JE a lot more than you, it seems. 🙂 There’s such a lot of CB’s own life written into the story that I view it as part autobiography and part wish fulfilment. It is, essentially, her own Cinderella fantasy. She wrote the happy ending for Jane & Rochester that she never had with her beloved Master, Professor Heger, and I think she lays bare her soul in the process. The Gothic and Romantic elements in the story and its status as one of the first Sensation Novels are what mark it out as special, for me. Yes, there are too many improbable coincidences and Rochester isn’t exactly an alluring character for me either. Jane’s piety also annoys me, but this *is* Victorian era literature and it was daring at the time it was written. If you don’t like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall I think you can declare yourself a Bronte non-fan. 🙂

    • My review is probably a little harsh in that I didn’t dislike really, but I was quite surprised by the lack of passion I ended up having for this novel. And part of that is probably my own fault, I waited so long to read it and it is very beloved so I think I just expected to love it more. I don’t know a lot about Charlotte, so I’m not aware of her life and what this might’ve been for her in terms of a Cinderella fantasy.

      I think my biggest disappointment was Rochester, perhaps because he’s so universally loved it seems! But I can understand how it was very daring for its time and it does contain a lot of lovely elements.

      Onto The Tenant of Wildfell Hall then!

  2. Rory O'Connor says:

    This must be a novel you either like or don’t (as much, in your case). I LOVE this novel, it is my favorite classic, along with Persuasion. The novel that I never “get” the excessive hype over is Pride and Prejudice. I’m glad you liked JE even if you don’t share my undying love 🙂

    • There’s always those novels that we don’t “get” when everyone else seems to! I do like P&P and it’s been years since I read Persuasion, I really need to give it a re-read at some stage. I enjoy that though, it provides for much better discussions when we all don’t love the same things 🙂

  3. JaneEyre.net says:

    _Jane Eyre_ is my favorite book, despite its many apparent flaws. Many readers agree with you that the early childhood and Lowood sections are too long; they have been drastically cut down in some film versions. And yes, the coincidence bit strains belief, though that was a staple of popular British works – the first other example that comes to mind is the pair of main characters who were switched at birth in _HMS Pinafore_. And why does Jane fall so hard for Rochester, other than perhaps the fact that she has virtually no experience interacting with adult men?

    But those objections are, for me, swamped by the great torrents of passionate and sparklingly constructed (and occasionally hilarious) prose that pour off nearly every page. Bronte does a matchless job of everything from fleshing out this unusual romantic attraction to skewering high society’s foibles.

    For my website, JaneEyre.net, I’m in the process of carefully re-reading the book and noting some of the most wonderful sentences … there are just so many! (While that section of my site is a work in slow progress, I have already posted detailed reviews of nine film versions of Jane Eyre; perhaps you’d enjoy seeing one.)

  4. This has been one of my favourite books since I first read it in grade 6 – I think you know that already, I’m always talking about it! Probably it helped, being an “impressionable” age, but even then I recognised that the writing wouldn’t pass muster today, and the coincidences – namely finding her cousins – is a bit eyebrow raising. But it is gothic romance, and as a gothic romance it excels, for me anyway. Rochester is a Bad Boy to Jane’s Good Girl, but less scary and more sincere than Heathcliff, and I love that he’s all bluff and bluster but a woman brought him to his knees – literally (in fiction I love that). (Thinking of the difference between a romance and a love story, this would be a romance while Wuthering Heights would be a love story – this is a new understanding for me and I find it very interesting!)

    These days when I re-read it, I put aside that part of my brain that reads critically, and focus on all its merits. There’s amazing atmosphere here, and as a kind-of loose retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”, it always hits the spot for me. But if it didn’t work for you, it didn’t work, I can see that. I’m the last person to expect everyone to like a book! Though it’s nice when people get the same thrill from a story or character that you do. 🙂

    • I know you love this one – I applaud you for reading it in yr6, I think if I’d started it then I wouldn’t have finished it. I think I’m just not familiar enough with the type of book this is, so all the things that are quite common or part of the genre don’t really appeal to me, or seem too outrageous.

      I was told afterwards I had to read it non-critically and just enjoy the story but I can’t really seem to do that it seems!

  5. Tony says:

    Don’t like this, the kind of weak Victorian Chick-Lit that people expect of the Brontes (and Austen!). Which is a shame because most of the other novels are better…

    I actually liked the childhood scenes – I much preferred Jane as a character before she actually grew up…

    • Hmmm. I don’t know that what I expected was “weak Victorian chick-lit”. What I expected was a story that gave me more than I got. But expectations about books are wrong all the time. Clearly I went into this one with ones that were too high. But it shouldn’t matter much, given the only person who is disappointed is actually me.

  6. I think i had high expectations when i read this one too Bree, i only picked it up for the first time about a year ago. It took me a long time to really get into the story because Jane’s early years are quite drawn out- as you said to create her character- which could have been cut down a bit.
    The connection between Jane and Rochester was a little bit of a let down for me too, i suppose they are two people from quite dysfunctional backgrounds and somehow they come to a mutual understanding.

    I haven’t read Wuthering Heights yet… i intend to read it for the eclectic reader challenge this year… which only leaves me a couple of months! Those classics are such long books and really aren’t made for a hasty read- i’ll probably have to read it over a couple of weeks so i can understand it properly.

    I did watch the latest Jane Eyre movie (2012 i think) and I actually enjoyed it- though it is slow and dark like the novel.

  7. You are not alienating me! I still don’t quite understand why so many just love it so much!? I liked some of the dialogue between Rochester and Jane, but mostly because it made Jane more interesting and showcased her wit. But he just had too many deal breakers for me to really believe in the love story. -Sarah

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