Bronte, Charlotte. 1847. Jane Eyre.
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
I was a bit of a skeptic. I didn't think it was really and truly possible for me to love Jane Eyre. Didn't I try to read it as a teen and give up on it halfway through? Didn't I try to watch some rather bad movies of it in college? Surely, I'd given it my all and Jane Eyre just wasn't my thing, right? Wrong! (Now that I think about it, I think the main prejudice I had against it was that I hated Wuthering Heights (which was required unlike Jane Eyre) and it was by a Bronte.)
I wanted the adult-me to give Jane Eyre a try this year. I put it on several challenge lists. (Nineteenth Century Women Writers, Herding Cats, 1% Challenge, Classics Challenge, Daring Girls Challenge, Bronte Sisters Mini-Challenge, R.I.P. III Challenge, Fall into Reading 08, etc.) I unburied it from the depths of my classics which hadn't seen the light in a good number of years. But I kept putting it off and putting it off. With somewhat good reason. Carl's R.I.P. III challenge. I didn't want to read it too soon.
Before I started this one, I made the decision to check out the latest Jane Eyre movie (2006) from the library. I watched it. I loved it. I didn't just love it. I loved, loved, loved it. And then I picked up the book. And guess what, I loved it too! The movie was great because it was well done and entertaining. Little did I know--at the time--that the dialogue, the script, was lifted largely from the book itself. But when I began reading it I saw just how true-to-the-book the script was in many many ways. (I'm not saying that it was the most perfectly true-to-the-book movie ever made. But it is far closer than most attempts I've seen. Much closer than say most of the Austen movies I've seen done recently.)
Jane Eyre is the story of Jane Eyre, obviously. We first meet her as a ten year old living quite unhappily with the Reed family. Her uncle made his wife, Jane's Aunt Reed, (boo, hiss) promise to look after the child, the orphan on his death bed. She might have said and said and said those words, she said them but she lied them. Jane is treated differently from her cousins--Eliza, Georgiana, and John. They're all dreadfully spoiled and horrible. And she's, well, they call her the spawn of the devil, they're forever going on about how she's going to go to hell because she's an evil, spiteful girl. She's soon sent away to school, to Lowood. She has plenty of rough times there, but she does see kindness for really the first time. She meets a teacher who is sympathetic. And she gains and loses a best friend, a Helen Burns. (She dies.)
We then fast forward quite a bit of time. We next meet Jane when she is eighteen. She is now a teacher at Lowood herself, but she wants more from life. She advertises to be a governess, and she's hired by a Mrs. Fairfax. She's on her way to Thornfield, to care for a young French girl, Adele. She has no idea that Thornfield (and its inhabitants) will change her life forever. For one thing, she doesn't know of Mr. Rochester's existence. And even if she did, she couldn't possibly dream that her employer would take an interest in her, an honorable interest in her at that.
Plain Jane Eyre, the governess, the woman who feels most at home working behind the scenes is in for a pleasant surprise or two upon meeting Mr. Edward Rochester. He's an ugly sort of person himself--on the outside--and he's not that easy a person to read. He's got secrets. Lots and lots of secrets.
This one is just right for Carl's R.I.P. III challenge, while I'm sure most of you know the mysteries and secrets lodging within the book, I won't spoil the book here.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Saturday Review of Books: October 25, 2014
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