This is another poor book that has been saved from an ancient corner of my tbr shelf and needed a good dusting down. I’m not sure why it has been there so long, I hazard a guess that this is because of the size of the novel and also its reputation maybe intimidated me a bit. The push to finally read this book came when I joined A Year of Feminist Classics reading challenge, May’s reading material was this and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This is also another book to tick off my Classics Club list with The Professor, Villette, and Shirley still to look forward to from Charlotte.
Jane Eyre is an orphan, she lost both her parents to typhus when she was only a baby, since then she has lived with her wealthy but unloving relatives, the Reeds, whilst in their home Jane is ignored by her aunt and regular beaten by her cousin John. Jane eventually escapes this situation when she is sent away for schooling at Lowood School for Girls, a charitable institution where girls are expected to work long hours, eat sparsely, and dress in thin cheap clothing. Life at Lowood is harsh but Jane is strong and lasts eight years there. At the end of which she finally believes she has the education and means to finally escape to a better life. She advertises for a governess position and is accepted by Mrs Fairfax of Thornfield Hall. Jane’s first impressions of Thornfield Hall is that it is old and imposing but it is finally within its walls that she starts to learn what contentment is. With the friendly company of the house keeper Mrs Fairfax, the doting attention of her pupil Adele Varens, and the love of her master Mr Rochester. However Thornfield Hall is not all that it seems, a deadly secret is hidden within its very walls.
I have been struggling over this review for quite a while, my thoughts about this book are all very mixed up, as I found Jane Eyre to be both fascinating and so frustrating at the same time! I believe that the book is exquisitely written, especially the descriptions given of scenes and places. I could imagine every detail of the impressive Thornfield Hall and of the dire Lowood school as if I’d been there myself. The atmosphere of the book is rather dark as you can imagine from my synopsis, Jane has a hard life and there is no getting away from that but I was disappointed it didn’t have more gothic elements (like Emily’s Wuthering Heights) they were there briefly in the eery going-ons at night and that’s it. Then we come to Jane herself; she is strong and independent minded which I loved, she has a strong belief in God and what is right something I liked, she is also very self-deprecating which annoyed the hell out of me! Ok she is apparently not that pretty but doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve love or attention. Jane is also rather self-destructive which seriously jars with the idea that she is an intelligent woman. Why is she so happy when Mr Rochester is so rude and nasty to her? Why flee in the middle night with no thought to one’s safety? These and many more questions about Jane’s choices is what so frustrated me through out the novel.
Jane Eyre is a dark tale of love, loss and secrets told by a flawed narrator, which as I said before makes for a fascinating but also frustrating read (I doubt I would have found the story as fascinating though if our narrator had been perfect). I am very much looking forward to reading more from Charlotte and her sisters.