Book Finished: May 10th, 2015
It feels extremely weird to me to try to review a literary classic.
Despite being an avid reader, I have a pretty long list of classic books I haven’t gotten to yet. This past month, I was able to cross another one off the list – Jane Eyre.
I’ve previously read Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice, both set in the same era. While I did enjoy those reads, I thought both Heathcliff and Mr. Darcy were unbearable. With Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester, I finally found a Victorian gentleman I approved of. Jane is much more interesting than the women featured in the other novels, and was rooting for her throughout.
The novel chronicles Jane’s life from early childhood living with her bitter aunt and cousins, to her young adulthood meeting and falling in love with Mr. Rochester of Thornfield Hall. Even as a child, she doesn’t believe in taking insult and injury quietly, and eventually works her way through a strict education and takes a job as a governess. She begins to develop a deep friendship with her boss and benefactor, Mr. Rochester, and it seems that they will inevitably fall in love and ride off into the sunset. The best part of this novel, however, is that something eerie is happening at Thornfield Hall, and it may just affect the couple’s chance at happiness.
In some ways, it’s difficult to review a novel written and set in Victorian England through a modern day lens. Occasionally, certain characters’ issues or complaints came across as so vapid and shallow that it made me grind my teeth. People are starving, and you’re concerned about how to schedule a visit to a gypsy camp? You’re bored because you have so much money that absolutely no one in your family has to do anything resembling work? I had to remind myself that these characters live in a very different society than I do, and that Jane spends a good deal of time surrounded by very wealthy people. They have different priorities than I (and Jane) do.
Jane herself is very likable, and a good model of an independent woman in an era when that was frowned upon. Although, I’ve never been one to understand the desire for romantic partners to mercilessly tease one another. Some minor jabs are fun, sure, but Jane and Mr. Rochester are at times downright mean to each other. Still, their relationship is romantic in that they don’t mind that the other isn’t a bastion of beauty, and their love is based off intellectual compatibility. Mr. Rochester appreciates Jane’s independence, and she appreciates his quirks.
Some may find that the book wraps up just a bit too nicely, but I found this aspect to be an interesting discussion on the idea of fate. That all these threads tie together so well is what makes Jane’s story fascinating. I loved the inclusion of the “ghost story” elements – which were down right creepy even after the big reveal of the truth. I also appreciated the peek at Jane’s life after the end of the novel, so that it didn’t end on a “and they lived happily ever after” note.
Jane Eyre now sits among my favorite classic novels, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys romance and mysteries as well.