Book Review – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Yesterday, reading Jane Eyre

With a little bit of this…

Jane Eyre is one of those novels that I’m surprised I got through high school and university without reading. In truth, I did my best to avoid it. I lumped it in with Jane Austen and Wuthering Heights and didn’t have much desire to read it. Yes, I’m confessing here and now that I don’t like Jane Austen’s writing. For whatever reason, I find that if you’re a young woman and you profess to enjoy literature, society in general assumes you love Jane Austen. Pay attention to any romance/romantic comedy – if the main female character is a journalist or any sort of academic, there’s a good chance she will tell someone her favourite book is Pride and Prejudice. But it isn’t just my own stubbornness that prevents me from enjoying Jane Austen. I really feel that her writing is the 19th century equivalent to Nora Roberts or whatever popular romantic author is out there right now. I’ve never read Nora Roberts so the comparison may not be accurate but my point is it’s fluff writing. I’ve never read a Jane Austen book and felt I had anything in common with any of the characters. I read Emma in high school and was frustrated by the predictability of all of her actions. I partly chalked it up to the vast changes in the world in the last 200 years but what surprised me is that I really enjoyed Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is a romance and it verges on the sentimental at times but in a way that felt real to me. One of the issues I’ve had with romances like that of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy was that their relationship doesn’t seem real and I have trouble believing in love between two people who hardly know each other. The love that develops between Jane and Mr. Rochester felt authentic to me. It grew out of a working relationship and then a friendship. They weren’t blinded to each other’s flaws but instead loved the flaws that made their loved one unique. Their moments of intimate conversation were authentic and passionate.

The novel surprised me too in how modern it was. Dare I say that Jane Eyre is a feminist? Maybe not by the standards we now have for such a term but she demands the best for herself. She refuses twice to involve herself in unequal relationships where a man could lord over her. She decides to live independently and in potential poverty rather than be supported by a man. She is smart, capable, educated, and kind. She’s practical but also romantic. She holds fast to her principles, even when they keep her from what her heart wants most in that moment. If I ever have a daughter, I kind of want her to be like Jane Eyre.

I loved this quote:

I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation:they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what could be their worth…Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot.

I think that’s a pretty amazing expression of a moment when you can decide between following what you know to be right and what you want. Here Jane knows what the right decision is to make but she does not want to make it. Her whole life has been lived according to certain principles but if she doesn’t hold to them in the face of temptation, all the years she previously spent following them would be worthless.Throughout the novel we see Jane’s moral and spiritual development under the influences of Mrs. Reed, Helen Burns, Miss Temple and others and each of those lessons and experiences climax here, at this moment when she has to decide her future.

Clearly, Jane Eyre doesn’t need my recommendation; it’s been around a long time and it will last a lot longer. But if you’re like me and dislike the typical Victorian romances, try Charlotte Bronte and see if you don’t like her more than some of her counterparts.

In other news, I explored my new neighbourhood yesterday afternoon.

Yeah, it’s awesome.

Hey there, Pacific Ocean! Gosh, you’re pretty.

Also, isn’t this a cool gate idea? It’s full of books!

One last note – the copy of Jane Eyre I read was a gorgeous little leather-bound Collins, which I purchased at a very cool bookstore in Chilliwack called Spirit & Nature books. It’s worth checking out. It looks like this:

Okay, just one more beach picture.

Happy Wednesday all!

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