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.
— Goodreads Description
As an orphan Jane Eyre goes through many hardships during her childhood. When she leaves the boarding school she has been attending for six years and teaching at for two years, she finds employment in Mr. Rochester’s house at Thornfield Hall, as the governess to his ward Adèle. Soon enough she falls for Rochester and he does for her, but he has a terrible secret shut up in a room on the third floor. It does eventually come out – as secrets tend to do – and Jane leaves Thornfield for the unknown. She’s rescued from certain starvation by a set of siblings who, it eventually turns out, are her cousins. During her time in Morton she runs a school for girls and makes good friends with the people living there. The brother of the siblings eventually takes an interest in her as a suitable choice for the role of missionary wife – he wants to go to India with her. There’s no love between them other than that between siblings, and Jane adamantly refuses to marry him. In the end, she travels back to Thornfield – and after that to Fearndean, where Mr. Rochester now lives – and marries a blind and mutilated Rochester.
I’m starting this review long before I’ve finished the story. (At this point in time I am on page 312 of 461 and I started this book over a week ago. I’ll never finish, or at least that’s what it feels like.) I’m afraid if I don’t start now, I probably never will.
If I’m quite honest with myself (and you, reader), I didn’t start the book out of pure interest. That’d be a big fat lie. No, I started it because firstly, it has a gorgeous cover and a friend of mine swooned over it, and secondly, because one of my celebrity crushes had the gall to quote it in regards to another person and my heart soared. I’m shallow like that. But I am glad that I picked it up.
Jane Eyre has given me quite some grief. I like it, but I’ve had my reservations. I feel as if in this day and age, classics shouldn’t carry that descriptor around, to be honest. It might make life easier for many people if they didn’t. What is a classic, anyway? For me, they’re something inexplicably daunting. It’s probably a remnant of my school years, but let’s be honest here, classics are often read as part of a curriculum, be it school or university. They become a chore. I was apprehensive and uncertain if I would like it, considering that I had years and years and years of teachers trying to drill some appreciation for German classics into me. (They failed. I like reading and I like books, but I don’t like being told that something is good and just leave it at that.)
This is, of course, not a German classic (already an improvement, in my opinion), but it’s nonetheless a classic. And heaven knows, it has given me some grief. The issue I have with most classic literature – frankly, any literature that I understand but that was written a century or more ago, whether it was termed a classic or not – is that it’s unbelievably longwinded and boring. And occasionally so far out there with metaphors and insinuations that despite my dear German teacher in 12th grade assuring us that Effi Briest and Major Crampas were having a sordid love affair, I didn’t see it anywhere. That subtext was so flimsy, not even a Sherlock Holmes fan could’ve found it. At least so I thought at the time. Pretty sure that if I tried to find the subtext now, I would. But nobody taught us anything about subtext and what it is and that it is there. It was just taken as standard that yes, those two are having an affair, but nobody ever explained where one could see it. Teachers, you failed me. Anyhow, getting off topic here.
Jane Eyre is longwinded as well. It’s not without interesting events throughout those longwinded passages, but heaven knows, it’s not exactly an action movie. Of course not. I didn’t expect it to be. Despite the longwinded parts, though, I came to like Jane Eyre – both the character and the book. Jane is a feisty young thing who deserves only the best after putting up with all the, pardon my French, crap she got from her family, Mr. Brocklehurst and later also from Mr. Rochester. She is a feisty young thing and despite changing to conform to the school’s expectations, there’s still a little fire in her. Jane is fierce and fiery and maybe also a little bit (alright, a big bit) blinded by love and being treated as a human being. She’s not without faults, but she’s infinitely more interesting than I expected her to be.
As for Mr. Rochester? I’m trying to be serious but I have to say it once: Mr. Rochester is the crayest bitch in Craytown-upon-Crayness. In other words, he’s a moody, unstable twatwaffle who acts out of pure selfishness. Maybe he loves Jane, maybe he doesn’t. But boy, is he cray. Bit like his actual wife. (At this point, let me tell you, the cover blurb talks about her as an ex-wife, and yeah, no, whoever wrote that was a bit deluded? Sorry, Rochester, but that woman is your wife, as much as you wish it were not the case.)
I have finished the book! Let’s have a party. Unexpectedly, the novel picked up in pace after I started writing my review and I thoroughly enjoyed the next hundred pages or so. I did not succumb to the naps that were lurking around every corner in all the 300 pages before this! I call it a success. Honestly though, the fierceness came through again in Jane and I think that’s what I enjoyed the most about her as a character – when she was courageous enough, she would let her fierceness come through.
For a while there I thought Jane might be happy in Morton with St John, but frankly I am glad that she did not. They didn’t suit each other at all and, since I’m a modern woman, I was quite upset with how easily Jane let him command her around. It wasn’t done with malice, but nonetheless it ticked me off, especially later when he basically demanded that she become his wife. For shoddy reasons, really.
In the end, I do like the story. It was an interesting read and Jane, especially, is an interesting person. I wish there had been more of her feisty attitude, more of the years that weren’t dominated by either Rochester or St. John, but we can’t have it all, can we? All in all, I’m giving it three teacups. It was well written, really quite interesting and despite the longwinded passages more exciting than I expected, but man, I’m just not a classics girl, I think.
And because I think everyone should see the beauty that is my favourite review of Jane Eyre (whether you agree with it or not), I’ll quote it here:
I could bang Mr. Rochester like a screen door ’till next Tuesday. That’s not all I got from this book, honestly…
It’s not very insightful, but it definitely made me laugh.