Lately, I've been trying to go through my to be read list and knock off some books that have been lingering for a while and judging me for not reading them. I finished Pride and Prejudice in August and in September I finally finished Jane Eyre. What follows is my spoiler-ful review of the novel, so proceed with caution if you have not yet read it.
I loved Jane Eyre. Loved it. Up until about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through.
The novel had a wonderful beginning. Jane was mistreated by her aunt and cousins, but she survived and stood up for herself when and where she could. Then she went off to the school where, after some improvements were made, she thrived. She developed into a strong young woman. She spread her wings and became a governess to a really cute little girl and dealt with her new master, Rochester. At times Rochester was a bit of a jerk by kind of jerking Jane around. But she stood strong and kept developing in her new life. Jane was so much more wonderfully opinionated than I expected for a character created in the early 19th century, which was fantastic!
So Rochester and Jane were engaged and were going to get married in a big huge rush and Jane wouldn't allow herself to be excited about it, which was kind of a sign. Then they're at the church and someone comes up and says that they can't get married because Rochester is already married...to the "thing" in the attic, which I totally knew was going to happen. Jane basically shuts him down when he says that in his mind he was no longer married, etc. And that was great. I was so proud of her for doing that, for standing her ground and doing what she believed was right and for wanting Rochester on even terms, not just on his terms. Jane's strength and willfulness were great.
Then she decides to leave the house. Understandable. She decides to go while everyone else is asleep. Still understandable. She doesn't bring a whole lot of stuff because that's a lot to carry and she doesn't feel like much of this is hers. Also understandable.
But then she gets on a carriage that will use all of her money.
Then she leaves all of her things on the carriage. And literally has nothing. She proceeds to wander around, sleeping outside, as she figures out what to do next. Logically, I know that she didn't really have any other resources. But to myself, I was saying:
Honestly, this bit reminded me of the last ten chapters of Huck Finn. Uh...spoilers...Twain got Huck and Jim off of the raft, but then he didn't know what to do to wrap up the novel. So he walked away for a while and then came up with reintroducing Tom to the narrative and shenanigans ensue. Damn near ruins the whole beginning of the story. I am not accusing Bronte of such heinous things, but it felt like Bronte herself lost the narrative a bit. She got Jane away from Rochester, but how could she finish up the story? I can't think of another way entirely. But maybe make it less dramatic.
I really like how Jane became independent in this part of the novel. She learned for the sake of learning. I found myself wishing I could be in the living room with them studying away. Jane got set up at the school and accomplished great things there as well. I love Jane as a teacher. All of this was great for her growth as a character. Absolutely great. I really like how strong-willed she was throughout the novel. It was not what I was expecting for all of the years that I put off reading.
But then I was bludgeoned over the head with the coincidences. Maybe I'll steal away in the middle of the night and meet my own Rivers family. And then a relative I've never met will leave me money that conveniently splits quite nicely between the four of us. To top it off, maybe I'll get the most awkward proposal in the history of proposals by my very own St. John. No thank you. I like subtlety. Maybe it's the Hemingway devotee in me, but I don't like stories that are too obvious and coincidental. I mean, really. She wanders far from home, penniless, almost dies of exposure, and the family that takes her in just happens, we find out later, to be her relatives that she never knew existed. And their recently deceased uncle just happens to be Jane's uncle, who leaves her all of his money. Which happens to be able to satisfy the wants and needs of Jane and her three cousins. I just can't. I want a plot twist that taps me on the left shoulder, while standing on my right so that I have to look before I find it.
Back to the awkward proposal...Good for Jane again for not being scared into submission when St. John basically threatened her with hell and damnation for not marrying him, though he didn't love her one bit, nor she him. Good for her. I appreciate how she was willing to go off and do God's work as St. John's aid, but not as his wife. And that really sucked how he treated her, but whatever. Some guys (and chicks too) are douches and holier than thou and that sucks, so we need to avoid them.
Then Jane goes off in search of Rochester again and the story gets back on track to the level of what I knew it truly was. They ultimately unite as equals. They are together for the right reasons. It's the right time. Good for them.
I know that there is apparently this whole big Rochester versus Darcy debate going on regarding who is sexier. I see both sides. Rochester has this really sexy verbal thing that in many ways reminds me of Rhett Butler. But Darcy doesn't play games nor does he pretend to not be married. If I had to choose and couldn't pick Rhett Butler, I think I would have to go with Darcy. He's still brooding and intelligent, but he doesn't lie and he seems to have a bit more honor. Important traits when seeking a mate, if you ask me.
Did I like the overall story? Yes. Did I wish I could edit out a few chapters because they drove me crazy? Absolutely. Will I read it again? Probably. Will I encourage my children to read this novel at an earlier age? You bet! Can I see why other people totally love this book? Naturally--I loved most of it.
I really hate how those few chapters got in the way of me totally, unconditionally loving this book.
And, don't hate me, but right now I'm thinking that maybe I like Emily's book better...then again I haven't read that one since high school. I am wanting to say something about liking Jane Austen more, but I am just not entirely 100% sure of that statement.
Anyway, there. My thoughts on Jane Eyre. I would give this one 4 stars out of 5 (I need a different rating system because stars are boring), losing a star for the in the woods chapters and the coincidences, which lovers of the book have admitted are kind of rough for them as well.
One parting thought...