Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Enduring to the End

This month for the Classics book club at 5 Minutes for Books the book of choice was Jane Eyre. I was really excited to read it because I actually never had. Which admission completely stunned my mother in law as she rates Jane Eyre as the best book written ever. How could it be that one as reasonably well read as myself could have been so unfortunate as to have never read from the pages of Jane Eyre?

I live here in Yorkshire and where the Bronte's are from, Haworth, is really close by. So having adored Wuthering Heights as a teenager (oh Heathcliff!) I have felt almost like I have been living on hallowed ground. But only the lazy type of feeling not the actual type of feeling that has ever motivated me to get off my backside and take the 30 minute trip to Haworth and enjoy all that Bronte country has to offer.

Several chapters in I was gripped. My very own mother used to threaten to send me away to boarding school as punishment for my misbehaviour as a child which naturally terrified me to my inner core but somehow along the way I have romanticised just how wonderful life in an orphanage/boarding school would actually be. I have pondered on how great it must be to have such close kinship with your fellow boarders and the unity that would result from existing on a diet of mouldy bread or burned porridge and sleeping three to a bed. Or maybe I have just watched Annie one time too many?

As Jane survived Lowood and matured I was sad that she chose to leave but was excited to accompany her on her adventures in the big wide world.

It was at this point in my reading that my sister in law happened to enquire how I was finding the novel and decided never to speak to me again as I described Jane Eyre as dull. The middle chapters are seriously long and needlessly drawn out.

Mr Rochester was a very sad replacement for Mr Darcy in my mind (as I had just read Pride and Prejudice) and I found him strangely creepy and not at all attractive (Yes, I am shallow thank you very much!). Flirting with a young girl half his age, insisting on calling her his pet or his elf. I once very briefly dated a guy who insisted on calling me pumpkin, pet names like those should be outlawed, seriously. They're just plain wrong. Then he proceeds to occasionally call her Janet even though she never once refers to herself as anything other than Jane. If her name were indeed truly Janet Eyre I feel sure that hideous Mrs Reed woman would've been calling her it from day one rather than a kindly shortened version of her name. I was desperate for whole chapters on end for Jane to spout out, 'Hey Mister, I am neither your imp, elf or pet and the name is Jane, you humongous buffoon' sadly it never came. Gutted. Such a comment would really have brightened up the narrative.

By far my biggest concern at this point in my reading was what on earth was in existence and maniacally laughing on the third floor that relentlessly bites and knives people? I started to seriously wonder if Charlotte Bronte was some precursor for Stephen King.

But Rochester & Eyre are almost united before the creature on the third floor is exposed as his actually legal but slightly crazy wife and Jane takes off with no money or possessions for fear of being kept as his mistress on the continent.

Which results in the highly unlikely turn of events that she randomly wanders for three days seeking food and shelter and is eventually taken in by St. John Rivers and his sisters who end up actually being related to her and she happily shares with them the fortune she inherits from one of their Uncles.

St. John tries to coerce Jane into marriage saying some of the most blunderous things that no man should ever say to a woman 'You were formed for labour, not for love...', yep, because compliments like that will have the ladies lining up to marry you. She continues to refuse his less than tempting offer.

She randomly hears Rochester's disembodied voice and returns to Thornfield only to find it burned courtesy of the crazy wife on the third floor who jumped to her death from the flaming ruins. Jane discovers Rochester was badly maimed in the fire and left blind and without a hand. She of course finds him and it is the stuff Disney films are made of. Like a modern(ish) day Beauty and the Beast. Except she isn't exactly beautiful and he isn't exactly a beast.

But it goes without saying they live happily ever after and he even regains vision in one eye just to make everything fine and dandy.

So what I am trying to say in essence is......next time I consider reading Jane Eyre I will just read Pride and prejudice for 5,321,213th time instead.

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15 lovely comments:

Amy Guerino said...

Girl, my first read through just after Pride and Prejudice in an English Literature class in college got the same reaction and review you've written here! I enjoyed being the devil's advocate for my professor who loved the novel more than any other. I couldn't believe it....but I was comparing it to Jane Austen's wit and humor and idealistic imagination. Do you know what gave me a second opinion? Two things: I'm closer in age to Rochester and do not find him so old. And the Masterpiece Theatre production in 2006 with Toby Stevens and Ruth Wilson. I wish I could visit Haworth with you....you could play devil's advocate and I can try to convince you with what I've learned about the Bronte family! I guess I'll just have to imagine the adventure!

Colleen said...

Haha. I love your straightforward explanation of the plot. Jane Eyre isn't my favorite book either.

I disliked the pet name thing too, but what bothered me even more was how she called him master.

It's so cool that you are right by Haworth! I'm jealous.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Ha--very funny! I agree that parts of it were quite dull. I did enjoy the end, but slogged through the first part.

ibeeeg said...

I keep hearing how Mr. Rochester is creepy and old. I did not find him either creepy or old. I found him endearing in his own way. Pet names...the only that bothered me was Janet as I thought ugh...use Jane. However, the other names I did not find to be anything buy show that she was close to his heart and mind.

The MPT production is good. Not a great one as the BBC Pride and Prejudice but good. Toby Stevens is my favorite Mr. Rochester.

Jen said...

Thank you for bringing up the whole "Janet" thing. What was that?!

I haven't read P&P yet so I have nothing to compare it too, but I will say that I didn't dislike Rochester as much as you. Yes, he was a condescending jerk at times, but for some reason he grew on me.

Would you believe I read this book over the summer. It wasn't exactly a good light summer beach book. It actually became joke with my family how long it took me to get through the book. This was a slooowwww read.

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

I wholeheartedly agree! I'd never read Jane Eyre before this summer either. I bought it and Pride and Prejudice in these cute little fabric covered editions. Thankfully I read Jane Eyre first and plugged through it knowing I was going to reward myself by reading P&P.

Claire said...

I've not read it either. And probably won't now. Sounds rubbish. And I'd probably end up identifying with the crazy wife. I make strange noises too..

Stephanie Cunningham said...

I suppose you'd be shocked and horrified to find out that I've read Jane Eyre several times but have never so much as cracked the book Pride and Prejudice (I may have cracked it open once...). It isn't one of the happier books from that era, but then again, neither is Wuthering Heights. All of my opinions on these books are tainted by the fact that during my brief time in college I was an English major and had to write many a paper on both of those books!

Mamasphere said...

I've started that book so many times only to put it down due to excrutiating boredom. Maybe now that I'm older I'd be able to get past the first few chapters and actually enjoy the story, but after your review I doubt it! I'll just see the movie instead.

Wendy said...

Stop it just stop....you are making want to pick up reading these books again! I love to read but I usually don't have time to read for pleasure.

I am a bit jealous of your whereabouts. You are on hallowed literature ground. Enjoy it for the rest of us.

andreawilliams said...

Hmm... Maybe I need a new read!

Auds at Barking Mad said...

I have NEVER been able to get through Jane Eyre...never. P&P has always been one of my favs and I "assumed" Eyre would be another book I'd adore. Not so much.

Science PhD Mom said...

I did like Jane Eyre, but not as much as Pride & Prejudice (witness my blog for that!!). I hated Wuthering Heights with an all consuming passion, and sparred energetically with my high school AP teacher about it. I thought Catherine and Heathcliff were the two most selfish people I had ever read about, and I really couldn't care less if they were both miserable. Needless to say she was shocked and I don't think I was ever a favorite pupil after that! *LOL*

Kipi said...

Great review! I will add my bit of jealousy to the others for your location! While I didn't find Mr. Rochester "creepy," he will never replace Mr. Darcy in my mind or heart.

EmmaP said...

i couldn't agree more. The hard part for me is GETTING THROUGH the dull parts. often times i just plain stop reading and set the book down. I will admit, though it leaves me with a feeling of un-resolution. So, then I must pick it up again, or if I'm really bothered - just skip to the ending! hahaha!