R7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

(Just like last week, there'll be Jane Eyre spoilers. Also, by the way, I found this travesty at the bookstore last weekend. While I can get behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for being an original idea, I absolutely cannot support its imitators. Lame. Speaking of P&P&Z, is anyone interested in seeing some reviews of Austen or Emily Brontë or anything like that? It may not be true to the whole "bottom 100 romance novels" thing, but I'll take whatever breaks I can get. -M.R.)

Jane Eyre (Tor Classics)Pages: 485

Pairing: governess and ... gentleman, I guess?
First Sentence: There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Climax: lol yeah right... but I don't think any of these words mean what Charlotte Brontë thinks they do: Again came the blank of a pause: the clock struck eight strokes. It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me.

Although I may have read some of the Little House books, Nancy Drew, and maybe Anne of Green Gables before the first time I read Jane Eyre, when I was ten years old, I always think of Jane Eyre as the first novel I ever read (I guess arguably Nancy Drew and the Little House books would qualify as "chapter books" rather than novels, but whatever). I bought it and Wuthering Heights at a school book fair when I was in grade five, at my mom's suggestion. I read it, and I'm sure I only understood about 50% of any given scene, but I also fell in love. This love affair only exacerbated my obsession with orphans and mansions (possibly first inspired by The Secret Garden). I also trace some strange childhood ideas about punctuation and the word "for" to this book. In my mind's eye, it's the size of War and Peace most likely because of the fact that I was much smaller when I first read it.

The point of all this is that I can't possibly think of Jane Eyre in an objective way at this point, but I have to say that on this latest rereading it stood up rather well.

Anyway I really hate to see it in a list with Because of a Boy and all the rest, but I'm glad I read it again after Wide Sargasso Sea. It's definitely better than that other book, and all the romnovs on the list so far.

If I were to regard it with the same standards and attitudes as the other romnovs, I'd say that it gets off to a rather slow start: male lead Edward Rochester doesn't appear until over a hundred pages in. I'd say that Charlotte Brontë has very bizarre ideas about semi-colons, perhaps even bordering on obsession. I'd say where the hell is all the sex (except that we all know that no one in England had sex throughout the entire reign of Queen Victoria, so this may not be a valid complaint)?

My edition of the book (from Tor, and surprisingly full of typographic errors) certainly casts itself in the light of an ordinary romnov. The front cover byline thingy reads, "A haunting tale of young love—and deadly secrets..." and the back cover continues even more melodramatically—though to be honest, not exagerrating at all about the book's actual content.

For those of you that I'm confusing, I should probably give at least a brief explanation of what the book is about. Jane Eyre is an 18 year-old governess with basically no family or friends. She works for and falls in love with Edward Rochester, teaching his "ward," Adèle Varens. Rochester is 40ish, but the age difference isn't as big of an obstacle to their happiness as is the fact that Rochester is already married to Bertha Mason aka Antoinette Cosway, which Jane literally discovers at the altar. Jane refuses to become Rochester's mistress, a bunch of pretty neat/coincidental things happen, and various of the book's characters get to live happily ever after.

If the ending isn't quite satisfying, I hardly care. If pages are "wasted" in the beginning to tell about Jane going to boarding school, those pages are certainly more interesting than the best parts of The Single Dad's Virgin Wife. If there's no sex, there's lots to read between the lines.

Anyway I'm sorry if this has turned into just a bunch of gushing over a book I've loved since childhood. Just read it, okay? And definitely have a look at this one before Wide Sargasso Sea.

(Sorry about all the parentheses, I got a bit carried away!)

"Sir, I was too plain; I beg your pardon. I ought to have replied that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about appearances; that tastes mostly differ; and that beauty is of little consequence, or something of that sort."

And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.


  1. I obviously need to share one of my papers from University English class with you. I did Short Story & Novel as a lark when I was doing my music degree, and it was a great excuse to re-read Jane Eyre! (We also read Wide Sargasso Sea, which I didn't like as much, but could appreciate as a stand-alone story.) (Oh, I was 11 when I read Jane Eyre for the first time. I had a penchant for thick books; that's probably how I wound up reading parenting books off my mother's bookshelf when I was 11, too.)

    Anyway, back on topic: The paper I wrote back then is about the use of the name John. I did lots of research, and since name meanings are one of my (many) interests, it was a lot of fun to research and write. Nobody had apparently even picked up on this whole thing prior to me looking at it, which I found rather astounding!

    Among the information I gleaned: Jane is the female form of John. There are at least three characters, therefore, with the name of John. St John the Evangelist (I believe - I know it's not the Baptist) is the patron saint of books and bookmaking. And Jane's cousin St John quotes Revelation at least once. (My theory is that, given Charlotte's status as the daughter of an Anglican priest, and given the still-somewhat-strong ties the Anglican church had with the Roman Catholic church at the time, she would have known that about St John, and I would not be surprised in the least if she had been invoking St John over her work. Needless to say, the saint answered her prayers...)

  2. I'd definitely be interested in reading your paper, although I'm not sure I'd agree with your findings. Still, it sounds like it'd be interesting! I can see how it could be construed as more than coincidence, since it's not like Charlotte Brontë isn't creative or something.

    Is Jane's uncle the third character named John? I can't think of who it'd be otherwise.