Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I’ve put off reading this one for years, but, after reading Middlemarch last year, and The Jane Austen Book Club triggered a desire to catch up on 19th Century Lit. I moved it and Wuthering Heights into the read this next year queue. I enjoyed the Austin I’d read years ago, but hadn’t circled back around to read the rest or track down much by the authors she’s lumped in with.. I read Wuthering Heights earlier this year and was blown away; I had expected a slightly edgier version of Austen and was not prepared for a domestic horror novel with the melodrama dialed up to eleven the whole time. After Moby Dick and Middlemarch it is probably my favorite 19th Century novel. Now that I’ve finally read Jane Eyre I can say that I am firmly on team Bronte. I do like the three Austen books I’ve read (especially Pride and Prejudice) and I intend to read the three I haven’t gotten to yet, but I am far more likely to reread Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre again before returning to the Austen I’ve read.*

I’m fairly genre agnostic. While I tend toward the intersection of scifi/fantasy/horror with literary fiction, I’m open to most genres. I’ve generally added the caveat that romance was a genre that I’m not interested in. And, to be fair, it is on the lower end of the scale of my interests. That said, books like this, Wuthering Heights and the Austen and Eliot I’ve been reading demonstrate that I need to stop adding that caveat. I’m not headed out to buy a bunch of Harlequins any time soon, but it’s time I admit that, like any genre, there is great stuff to be found in it.

Jane Eyre is worthy of its reputation as a classic. I found it compelling from the very beginning, despite having the major plot twist spoiled years ago (speaking of which, spoilers for the rest of this paragraph). I enjoyed the characters, the writing and even the melodrama. The revelation at the wedding of the wife locked in the attic was well staged and, despite the spoilers, had an impact. The coincidence of her finding refuge with her cousins required some suspension of disbelief, but it really set up a very good final act. The men get off fairly easy in the book. St. John was a little over the top in his self righteousness, but I’ve met the type. And despite his disfigurement, I’m not sure if I like that he ended up marrying Jane after all. I’m still processing the way Jane’s faith played into that decision and Bronte’s approach to . Side note: Now that I’ve read this, I am looking forward to reading Wide Sargasso Sea. The story retold from the perspective of the locked away wife has a lot of promise.

While I prefer her sister’s novel, this is fully worthy of its reputation and I’m glad I finally got to it.

Highly Recommended.

Owned But Previously Unread 2020 35/75

*Of course, I know it’s unfair to pit the Bronte sisters against Austen in this way

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