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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I'm not a great reader of the classics (a shock to all of you, I'm sure). I love books, and I love to read, but I very rarely pick up any of the classics. I'm not entirely sure why this is; I don't find the language completely inaccessible, but something about books written more than fifty or sixty years ago makes me bite my nails and walk right past that section of Barnes & Noble so I can get to the modern fiction.

There are a few exceptions, of course: Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the occasional Hemingway. (Don't judge me.) I was pressured recently into reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, however, a book which falls into none of the aforementioned categories. I have fond memories of reading Pride & Prejudice in high school, but Austen is most certainly not the gothic novelist Brontë is (or indeed, any of the Brontës are), and I worried I wouldn't be able to fall into the prose.

I, predictably, was wrong.

Jane Eyre is the story of an orphaned girl who, through no control of her own, is led from a childhood of abuse and modesty to become a governess at the enormous, and mysterious, Thornfield Hall. Jane finds her new employment agreeable, the child there incredibly French but fond, and the arrangements acceptable.

Until her moody master, Mr. Rochester, arrives. Until strange things start happening about the house. And until Jane herself grows from the schoolgirl-turned-governess into a young woman with impossible desires and strong opinions and discovers not everything she knows about Thornfield or her master is as it seems.

It's hard to say too much about a classic without either spoiling the best parts of the story or sounding like I'm slagging the book altogether. To that end, I will say this: while it starts slow, Jane Eyre is actually quite an addictive read. Jane, as a narrator, is clever but also not entirely reliable, which allows the reader to see the world colored uniquely through her eyes. Her experiences in childhood and at school are as she, not anyone else, sees them; as she grows, her opinions and comments on the world around her grow and mature in a way that is able to experienced by the reader. Also, because the book is told from Jane's point of view, there are portions of the dialogue which are clearly affected by Jane's opinions and mindset. It means that there were several twists that I didn't expect because I was hearing the entire situation from Jane's perspective and didn't realize where the other characters' heads were.

For being quite a long book, Brontë paced it expertly. There were a few places -- namely when she is sent to school, and the chapters when she was first coming to and settling into Moor House -- I found to drag, but the action on either side well makes up for it. The characters are enjoyable -- Mr. Rochester is a Darcy-level hunk in his own way (which is nothing like Darcy's!), Adele is endearing, St. John and his sisters are lovely -- and the creepy bits are, assuredly, very creepy.

I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Enjoy it, yes, but devour several hundred pages as though it was nothing? No. Jane Eyre was nothing if not a pleasant surprise. 


the forest-dweller

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