I made an attempt to read this when I was 12 (actually it was foisted upon me). I failed. I did not get through the Lowood section. I was bored to tears. I then somehow managed to get through high school and college without ever having it assigned. So a few years after college, I thought it was sad as an English major that I had never read it. It was so beloved, millions of readers can’t all be wrong, especially over 150 years, so I read it. I loved it. It was captivating, romantic, and I was swept away. Fast forward to 2010. It is assigned in book club and even though I had read it before it was over 10 years ago so I reread.
This time, not love. I think that was due to a variety of factors: when I did not end up flying to California, instead of 2 5-hour flights in which to get immersed, instead I had a series of nights of an hour apiece. I also was paying attention to the words I didn’t know for my Wednesday Words meme, which took me out of the story and put me in my head. I am older, a little less romantic, a little more critical of literature.
The time I read it in my twenties was this edition (Signet Classic) with the foreword by Erica Jong. Thanks simply to the popularity of Jane Eyre, I did already know some of the crucial plot points. Unfortunately, Erica Jong gave the rest away. I really hate when publishers aren’t careful about that kind of thing (not to mention authors.) This isn’t an Afterword. It’s a Foreword. It shouldn’t be filled with spoilers. On my rereading this week, I read the Bantam Classic edition with Foreword by Joyce Carol Oates. I did not read the Foreword until I was more than 200 pages into the 400+ page edition, and I’d like to thank Ms. Oates for not giving away the story at all.
Jane Eyre is still a masterful work. Sweeping, but structured. Romantic but Jane is mostly practical. Mr. Rochester is inexplicably ugly but sexy. We love Jane. She has such a strong inner core, an innate sense of herself and an innate personal moral structure. She is a great character as she’s so easy to identify with and root for. But I think I’ve grown out of her. Alas, this is always what I worry about when rereading.