This classic has been on my TBR list for so long! I finally got around to it and – just as I expected – fell in love with this well known tale.
Spoiler Free Review
Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Published: My version: Vintage, 2008. Original: 1848.
Having become an orphan, been raised alongside bullying cousins, and having a rather harsh education at a charitable school, Jane Eyre is setting out on another journey. She has taken up a post as a governess at Thornfield Hall, looking after Mr Rochester’s charge. Upon meeting Mr Rochester, Jane begins to feel drawn to his presence. However, secrets live within the walls of Thornfield and Jane will learn about love, life, sacrifice and strength.
This book has long been a book I wanted to pick up. I actually watched an adaptation of this about 10 years ago and then picked up the book straight after. I read about half of the book but then got distracted by other books. I’ve now picked it up again and it was such a special experience. I’ve spoken before about how I need to be in the right mindset to read a classic – I’ve definitely been in the mood recently and I took advantage of this!
I found our narrator Jane to be such a wonderfully strong young woman. She was incredibly independent, she knew what she wanted, and most importantly, she knew what she deemed to be ‘right’. She has a very strict moral compass which is referred to through the novel – she struggles, especially after meeting Rochester, between what her heart wants and what her brain wants. She respects herself and her life, and this provides a turning point in the story. I have read other novels of this era before and found some of the women characters to be feeble-minded and bough to the ideals of the men around them – but not Jane. She is a different woman of her time.
Rochester is a stoic character, quite abrupt and “in your face” when we first meet him. He is sharp and inquiring with Jane, and you don’t quite know how to take him at first. He is unlike anyone Jane has ever met before – as their friendship progresses, he becomes the first person she’s been under “the care” of that hasn’t scared or been violent towards her, and this – I believe – pushes her feelings further. He goes on quite a journey as a character; we learn more about his past life and consequently, his haunting secrets.
This novel is often described as a gothic romance. It is at once a story of two characters of conflicting social standing brought together and facing trying circumstances. It builds on this romantic base by also having themes of feminism, religion and independence. Added to this, is the gothic theme. This theme dips and flows, at times more apparent than others. I liked the Gothic parts as this added to Jane’s journey and provides one of the main plot points in the novel (but I can’t tell you what – this is spoiler free).
I enjoyed the style of writing – even though it was written over 150 years ago, it reads easily and is completely relatable. Jane experiences a lot of what we experience – bullying, heartbreak, societal influence. I felt intimated into Jane’s confidence through the fist person narrative, and this drew me more to the character and made me feel more from the story. As is almost always the case with older literature, there was a lot of description and some of the conversations were really (really) drawn out. This meant that the pace of the novel was quite slow and, given that I knew what was going to happen already (this is such an iconic piece of writing that almost everyone knows what happens), I found myself wishing to fast forward a little. However, after finishing this book and thinking about it, I think it would have taken away from the story to be more fast paced. The slow burn effect made the surprises more effective and made the eventual conclusion more satisfying.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
I really enjoyed this read – it was just as I hoped it would be. I found myself really liking Jane and enjoying Rochester’s sarcasm and strong will more than I thought I would. I rooted for them the whole time. Also, because I was so familiar with the story, I think that endeared me to it more. I felt comfortable in the book – there was a sense of familiarity about it which I liked. Most importantly though, I liked the way the novel dealt with equality between men and women – as the novel concludes we see the tables have turned on these characters for the better.
I actually read this via an audio book. I used the amazing app Librivox – it holds lots and lots of classic literature which you can listen to for FREE. You can download the books to your phone and listen to them without wifi connection (and they don’t take up much space either). All books are read by volunteers, which means that you might need to try different versions to see which one sounds best. Someone called Elizabeth Klett read the Jane Eyre version I listened to and she was brilliant – I’d definitely recommend the Klett version of Jane Eyre if you’re persuaded to give Librivox a try!
So, have any of your guys read Jane Eyre? What did you think? Have you got any other classic recommendations for me? Let me know 🙂