Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

Summary: Jane Eyre, an orphan, lives with her hateful Aunt Reed and her snotty children. When Jane finally reaches her breaking point with her Aunt and responds to the abuse, her aunt decides to send Jane to boarding school.  Although Jane has a difficult time at first, she eventually excels.  After many years she seeks work as a governess and is installed at Thornfield Hall where she meets Mr. Rochester.  As romance starts to develop, so too do the secrets of Thornfield.

Musings: I read Jane Eyre in high school but had retained only the barest outline of events, and it was truly a delight to reread (listen) to the novel.  Jane Eyre is the perfect protagonist.  Bright, confident, and spirited, she rebels against the dormant lifestyle expected of women in that day.  Instead, she seeks intellectual and physical engagement.  Her relationship with Mr. Rochester blooms not because of physical attraction or novelty but because he equals and respects her intellectually. With him, Jane does not need to hide or restrain any part of her personality. 

Going in I expected Bronte's style be along the lines of Austen, whom I enjoy but do find long-winded.  I was happily surprised that Bronte's novel felt much different to me, moving along at a good pace despite some extraordinarily long conversations.  I did occasionally grow impatient in the latter part of the novel during Jane's time with the Rivers, but that may be because I was so anxious for the ending (which I remembered) to come.  Yet I do think Jane's time with St. John Rivers (an aside: the narrator of my audio book pronounced his name as "Sin-gen"--is this normal?) is important in order to juxtapose Jane's personality and life with him against that of her time with Mr. Rochester.

My audiobook version was read by Susan Erickson, who did an excellent job capturing Jane's composed personality and Mr. Rochester's fiery temperament.  I loved the way she voiced Jane and Mr. Rochester's repartee.

Rereading Jane Eyre was thoroughly enjoyable.  Because I listened on audiobook, it took me over a month to finish it, but I'm glad that meant it lasted longer.

***This book qualifies for the Back to the Classics Challenge (19th century classic category).

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