Retro Friday: Jane Eyre

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

So I finished reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte this week and I thought that a review of this classic piece would be perfect for Retro Friday. I realized that I’ve never read Jane Eyre when I saw reviews of Jane by April Lindner popping up in the blogosphere. The retelling got very positive reviews so I was curious. I decided to read the original before I picked up Jane. I actually don’t know why I never read Jane Eyre. I know I had a classics phase back in college but I missed this one. One of my good friends made me read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (she told me I didn’t need to read the original to enjoy it) so I already had an idea of what occurs in the original story. Still, I believe I would’ve liked The Eyre Affair if I read Jane Eyre beforehand.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Charlotte Bronte’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847, under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine – one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved.

Images from: We Heart It

The novel starts with Jane Eyre as a child. She’s an orphan so she was raised by her aunt-in-law, Mrs. Reed, who never really liked her. The book was a little slow for me during this part but I did admire Jane for standing up against the bullying of her cousin. The book briefly touches on her school years at Lowood and then moves on to her late teenage years, when she becomes restless and decides to go out in the world. Jane ends up as a governess to Adele, the young, half-French ward of Mr. Rochester. There begins the romantic aspect of the story. However, Jane and Mr. Rochester go through a lot of obstacles before they finally end up together.

Jane Eyre is a dark and brooding novel. Even the thoughts and dreams of the characters tend to be gloomy and melancholy. I wouldn’t describe it as a feel good book and yet I didn’t feel sad while reading it and I could understand why so many people love this literary piece. The writing is beautiful and I feel like it just reels you in. I like how the narrative occasionally addresses the reader because it makes us part of the story. Here’s a sample of the writing, a section which I really liked:

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! 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.”

While Jane Eyre didn’t top my favorite romantic classic, Pride and Prejudice, I still think it’s a very good read. Jane is a competent character – she’s smart and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, she’s reasonable and practical and she sticks to hear beliefs even when they go against what she wants. She’s the epitome of the inside being more important that the outside because she’s not really beautiful. She’s a vibrant person and so is Mr. Rochester. For me, the highlights of the novel are the interactions between the two – how they verbally spar and how they eventually develop affections for each other. I’m out of my element when it comes to reviewing classics because I don’t think I can do them justice. If you’ve read this (like so many of you have probably done), please let me know what you think. If you haven’t, I encourage you to give it a try.