Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review - Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: 1847
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
Challenge: Victorian Literature 2011
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)
Everyone has to know the story by now. It is THE standard of Gothic romances. There are so many adaptations and reinventions, there was yet another movie version which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be just this year. Poor sad orphan girl meets man of her dreams, too bad he's her rich boss and has a crazy wife in the attic. She runs away and wanders the moors, has a close call with becoming a missionary and gets her happily ever after once she's an independent woman and her rich boss is a maimed widower. What more could you want in a story? High passions, high adventure, and crazy person in the attic. There are those who love it, there are those who hate it. I am of the love camp.

After I first read it I didn't know if it would retain all it's wonder on a re-read. The first time through the early schooling at Lowood is deathly dull, as is the religious fervor that gripes St. John in the bizarre Rivers section wherein it feels as if Charlotte has a few issues with her family... The middle with Rochester is what the book is about, but it does need the two bookends to fill out the story. On my re-read I was shocked how quickly Lowood receded away. I was through that in a thrice! Perhaps knowing that it does end makes it bearable? But it was fine with her little religious buddy and her strict discipline. The book really comes alive though with Rochester. You don't realize how much of a life force he is and how he brings out the best in Jane. St. John... oh my, I hated him even more this time. It was hard work slogging through his harsh strictures on himself and others. But what struck me again as it did the first time is the modernity. The writing style feels like it was just written. It's fresh and lively. Some books, such as Jane Austen, while I adore them to bitty bits, I can see people's criticisms because of the staid writing style. To them I say Jane Eyre! It shows that classics can be contemporary. Old is new. There is no wonder as to why they keep adapting this story, despite not having the shock value of the first time, there is something in the passions and the way it's written that make it of now yet timeless.

Finally a note on the edition. The New York Public Library did these wonderful editions back when I was just out of high school. I never bought them new and have been kicking myself ever since. I have made it a goal to find all the books in this series, and let me tell you, it has been a battle. If you ever see one, get it, you will not regret it. Beautiful binding, gorgeous deckled edges. A cover that has a slight glossy feel but with a little matte texture as well. Oh, and the embossed signatures! Anyway, I've only seen their edition of Jane Eyre once, and that's the one reviewed here. And if you see the Frankenstein in this set, message me, we'll work something out.


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