Saturday 29 January 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I'm using my new kindle to read more classics, and Jane Eyre was my starting point on my mental list of classic books I have always wanted to read but never actually gotten around to.   And a great starting point it was too.

Synopsis: Jane is an orphan girl bought up by her aunt, Mrs Reed, who despises her and only keeps her because of a promise she made to her dying husband.  As soon as possible she is shipped off to a boarding school where pupils are treated cruelly.  After finishing school and working as a teacher, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall.  There she meets and falls in love with the owner, Mr Rochester.  But his past soon catches up with them and Jane must make her way on her own again.

Score: 4 out of 5

When I started reading this book, I knew next to nothing about it.  I didn't have to read it in school, I've never seen a film adaptation of it and whilst I had the assumption that it was a romance, I didn't have a clue about any of the characters or other story lines.  I started it with a bit of trepidation as I read Wuthering Heights last year and it put me off the Brontes a little bit.

But I was pleasantly suprised to find that the book was lively and engaging with a lot of pace.  I liked that Jane was the narrator, and I liked that the novel was written in the style of an autobiography.  The beginning sections concerning Jane's childhood and time at school were my favourites and I found myself wishing that I had read this book as a teenager, when it would have meant even more.

Jane herself was a wonderful character who simply lept off the page.  Due to the autobiographical writing technique the reader knew all of her thoughts making it easy to relate to her.  She was far from being a typical heroine (just as Mr Rochester was not a typical hero) - she was stubborn, determined, clever, feisty, principaled and willing to stand up for what she felt was right, even if it would make her unhappy.  She was determined to make her own way in the world and control her own destiny.

I felt there was a lot of social commentary in the book, and the sections where Jane was teaching in a village school really rang true for me as a teacher who works in an area with a lot of poverty and unemployment.  There were also the themes of social class, money, family obligation and illness.  But the novel never felt over-loaded by these themes, everything took a back seat to the story.

If I had to criticise this book I could perhaps say that I just didn't like Mr Rochester that much, or his flowery speeches that went on for pages.  I appreciated that Bronte made him almost an anti-hero, that he wasn't the good looking knight rushing to save the day, but I couldn't see why Jane liked him so much.  The trick he played on her by letting her think he wanted to marry someone else so as to force a confession was just cruel.  But it's a minor criticism.  I rushed through this book and couldn't wait to pick it up again as soon as I had put it down.


  1. I'm one of those people who adore Rochester. I recently reread this book and put up a huge long post about it, including why I love him so much. :)

  2. Amanda, I'd love a link to your post about it. I wanted to like him, and intellectually I did, but there was something 'off' about him for me.

  3. I was very neutral about Jane Eyre when I read it as a teen, and should really give it another chance.

  4. I read Jane Eyre only last year and wished I had read it as a teenager. It's a fabulous book and I've heard many people say they've read over and over again at different stages in their lives and get something new out of it every time.

    But, yes, Rochester . . . ugh! I didn't like him either.

  5. I have to agree with Amanda, Rochester was my dream man for a while!! I also loved the book when I read it a couple of years ago!! I really want to give it another try now! THanks for reminding me!!
    Have a great weekend,

  6. I want to try some classics this year so Jane Eyre would be a good one to put on my list. I know some of the story as I watched parts of a bbc drama of it a couple of years ago I also want to read the YA book based on it called Jane (I'm not sure of the author though!)

    Thanks for your comment on my rating systems discussion. It gave me the idea that it might be useful for readers to find the five star review label to see which books I've loved best. That might work well on the review archve page too for easy reference.

  7. I'm reading this one as part of a read-alon in March and I'm looking forward to it as I want to have an opinion on Mr Rochester, he sounds horrible so maybe I will get more of an idea of him by reading the book LOL

  8. One of my favorite books!! This was my first when I decided to take on the classics last year. I was hooked from the first page. :-)

  9. So glad to see that you enjoyed this...I set a goal to read 12 classics last year, and was really pleasantly surprised at how much i enjoyed most every one that I read.

  10. The Brontë sisters had an edge few writers from that period had. Charlotte more than Emily. Jane Eyre is one of the quintessential work of Gothic fiction, which engineered a whole set of genres in the 20th century. Glad you seem to have liked it as much as I did.

  11. @Jessica
    Jessica, looking forward to your posts in March. Mr Rochester does sound a bit horrible but he has his good points too, mainly that he sees Jane as his equal and really does respect her.

  12. I have to agree with you, I'm not a fan of Mr. Rochester, my classic crush is Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
    Great review!