Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë


It’s hard to write about classics because it’s all been said before and besides, I don’t have time for essay writing. So I’m not going to go into detail about the politics of the book, how it was perceived in its day or what it has to say about gender relations, morality or God. You’ve probably thought about these things already and if not, that’s what Wikipedia and York Notes are for.

It can also be hard to enjoy classics because it’s almost impossible to avoid spoilers. I’ve never studied Jane Eyre, had never read the book before and hadn’t ever seen any TV or film adaptation. Until I picked up the book, I knew nothing of the plot – apart from the name ‘Mr Rochester’ having a certain familiar ring to it.

But sadly, there was a MASSIVE SPOILER on the back:

But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice.

Then before I was even half way through the book, I saw this tweet from @Mumsnetbookclub:
“He’s a miserable grump. He leads Jane on, puts her in danger, cross dresses and locks his wife up.” http://bit.ly/QiRup2 #MrRochester

Jesus Christ!

While I agree that some of Rochester’s actions are questionable (to say the least), he does tend to recognise his own flaws and regret his poor decisions. Yes, he is a miserable grump but this allows for much sultry, enigmatic brooding. And I certainly prefer Rochester to the pious, moralistic and manipulative St John, who made me squirm.

Jane herself is, of course, the real hero of the book, and when it comes down to it, you just want her to be happy. Her strength and resolve are as fantastic as they are maddening. And her account is so detailed, so precisely described, that you feel you’re right there with her.

On the other hand, description of conversations is scant, often consisting of nothing more than the actual words uttered. This leaves much open to interpretation – by readers and presumably by film makers too. Perhaps Jane herself doesn’t know what to make of certain conversations so just sticks to what she is sure of. Whatever the reason, this increases the tension, leaving your imagination free to run riot.

As ever, this book left me wanting more. I really must watch at least one of the TV adaptations or films and I really must read more of the Brontës. In particular, I need to find out if Heathcliff really is a total bastard.

Josephine Jones

This review originally appeared here as part of my "Reading Rewards" challenge.

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