Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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.


Carin said...

I have this on my RYOB Challenge list this year. I've heard great things about it so I want to give it a try.

Funny, I never read the forewords for exactly the reason you said. It almost always spoils something about the book. Every once in awhile I'll go back and read it after I've read the book, but never before I've read it!

Kristen said...

Given your reaction, I'm sort of glad that I didn't reread it with book club. :-)

Carin Siegfried said...

Yes, Carin, I learned my lesson about Forewords! I do normally like them as I learn a lot, but they have too many spoilers so now I read them at the end.