Synopsis: In early nineteenth century England, orphaned Jane Eyre is sent to live at a boarding school where she grows up and later becomes a governess to the ward of the mysterious Mr. Rochester.
Review: (Warning – there are spoilers in this review. If you’ve never read the book and are unfamiliar with the plot, go read the book instead of reading this review! I wish I would’ve known nothing about the book before I read it.)
Well. I’ve finally read it! After all this time, and everything I’ve heard, I’ve finally given Jane Eyre a try. Now, I have seen several of the movies a long time ago, so I was already spoiled for the story. And, the verdict is… it’s OK. Sigh. I know, you’re probably shaking your head and rolling your eyes and saying to yourself that I’m completely wrong. But I just did not understand the obsession with Mr. Rochester. He’s kind of a jerk. And he LIED. Repeatedly. And she goes back to him! AAAhhhh ….
Ok … moving on. I’m going to assume that you’ve probably read the book; so all spoilers are free game here!! Starting out with Jane’s early life, the way the Reed’s mistreated Jane really bothered me. I just really felt for Jane when she was locked in the “haunted” room (who does that?!?) and she passes out in fear. From the beginning, Jane has a very active imagination and she also is not afraid to stand up for herself. I admired her courage and bravery for standing her ground against her aunt at a young age. Jane stands up for herself, she speaks her mind and then she is bullied and beaten down for it, and still she persists. Very strong.
Then Jane goes from Gateshead Hall to Lowood School, where she meets the wonderful Helen Burns. I adored the character of Helen Burns. I just thought she was a really neat, nice, kind, admirable character. She stands her ground as well, but in a different way, and her “doctrine of endurance” I believe helps Jane endure later on when she’s left Thornfield Hall.
I loved Jane going to Thornfield Hall and trying to go out in the world. She could have so easily stayed at Lowood forever, but she wanted to go out and experience life. And Thornfield! Oh what a place – I just watched the newest version of Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester, and their Thornfield is so beautiful. It was just as I pictured it in the books. I love how when Jane and Rochester first meet in the book, it is Jane who rescues Mr. Rochester, and not the other way around. And even, in the whole book, Jane does end up rescuing Rochester from depression and his sad life, which is great.
But then we have all of the blah blah romance. And I love a good romance, but I just didn’t understand what was so great about Mr. Rochester. He’s moody, and demanding, and I just didn’t get him. And both Mr. Rochester and Jane are manipulative. I did not like how Rochester was playing with Miss Ingram and trying to make Jane jealous, and then how Jane would sit there and watch everyone and size them all up, with the air of “I am smarter than you”. She did size them all up accurately, but there was an air of manipulation to her that I was quite surprised to read. And I hated the scene with Rochester disguised as the fortune-teller. I really hate it when people play games like that. I don’t like it in real life, and I don’t like it in books. And really, no one figured it out? And he thought it was sooo hilarious. Um no.
I also thought that Jane was too whiny about Rochester. Everything was about him, and I’m glad that she did leave when she found out the truth. I did remember from the movies that he already had a wife up in the attic, so I knew that was coming. I do think that the atmosphere in the novel was perfect. It was creepy, dark, lonely, and claustrophobic, but there was also happiness and joy in Jane and Rochester’s relationship.
And then we come to the slow part of the book. Once Jane leaves Thornfield, and goes to live with the Rivers’, the book really slows down and becomes almost unreadable (for me). This section was so bogged down and slow, and I just kept waiting for Jane to snap out of it and leave that drippy St John. And then she becomes rich and finds out she is related to the Rivers. This part was a surprise to me, I didn’t remember this plot point at all, so I was very happy that she finally got a family that loved her, and she did not need to be beholden to anyone now that she could live comfortably due to her inheritance. Which, totally not greedy of her to split it 4 ways!! Very commendable! What modern day heroine would do this?? None. They might give some inheritance to charity, but not split it between newly discovered family members.
And then comes my favorite part of the book. I just loved these scenes. Jane is just about to say yes to St John’s marriage proposal and leave for India, when she hears Rochester’s voice on the wind, calling her name. She responds, and Rochester hears her voice as well. So, so beautiful. The mark of true love! And it does bother me that she went back to him, but she did truly love him, and he truly loved her, and I don’t understand it, but that’s ok. They were absolutely perfect for each other.
I happened to wonder what the consensus was on which was the better book, Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, and there are so many posts online about how you can’t love both books. You either like one or the other. Perhaps this is true, because I absolutely love Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre didn’t inspire me in any way. I do think I’ll give Jane Eyre another try in awhile though, I have a feeling I may come to love it the more I read it. I did enjoy the writing, and highlighted many passages. I also enjoyed reading an extremely strong female lead.
I wish that I had not known anything about the plot going in, I think I would’ve enjoyed the book more. I can only wonder what it would’ve been like to read this book when it was first published in 1847. I can totally admire and respect this book because of the barriers it broke and the new writing style it introduced, but in 2015 I’ve read so many books that borrow from Jane Eyre that it feels “been there done that”, and that is a shame. I should’ve read this book much, much earlier in life. I think then I would really, truly love this book.
Bottom Line: I’m glad I finally read this classic, I just wish I had read it earlier. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. I will read it again and hope it grows on me.
“Some of the best people that ever lived have been as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christian, you ought not to consider poverty a crime.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”
“On so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house; and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at meeting with moonrise.”
“I live in calm, looking to the end.”