Samantha Allen's Reviews > Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
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Dec 30, 11

bookshelves: all-time-favorites
Read from December 12 to 30, 2011

So, of course, this is a classic, the kind of book college literature courses tend to teach. Yet somehow I missed it during my time as an undergrad English major, so I picked it up this winter break at the best of a friend who loves the Bronte sisters. I read Wuthering Heights in high school, which left me cold (though I'm starting to think I should pick that one up again now that I'm older), so I wasn't sure what to expect of Jane Eyre. Now I understand why so many of the smart women I've met cite this book as their all the time favorite.

Jane is truly one of the best protagonists I've ever read. She continually defied my expectations of her, expectations that I, a woman reader, most likely projected onto her because of the expectations society once had -- and largely still has -- for my gender. What I love best about Jane is that she is not beautiful, and she never feels sorry for herself because of it. She is not submissive, or at least when she is she makes note of it and is disgusted by it, she considers herself the equal of all men and other women regardless of station. She's intelligent and strong-willed. She's the perfect antidote to the swooning protagonists of romance novels and certain young adult series that are so popular these days.

My favorite thing about this book, however, was the subversion of genre. All of the elements of a romance novel were present -- the ingenue, the dark man with a mysterious past, the promise of a rags-to-riches story at the consummation of their romance -- and yet whenever the events of the book strayed into that territory, Jane's commentary punctured it. Mr. Rochester calls Jane his angel, his fairy, a great beauty whose radiance illuminates his life, etc. etc... and meanwhile, Jane sits there telling him how ridiculous he sounds. And she's right, he does sound ridiculous. She sees right through his overwrought protestations of love, and Bronte uses this overdone sentimentality to craft a really witty, ironic scene. The fact that neither Jane nor Mr. Rochester are physically attractive struck me, as well. I'll have to do some more thinking on that point, I think.

Finally, I thought the book was really well paced. I think that's the problem most people run into when trying to read classics written hundreds of years ago -- the pacing is just too slow for a modern audience. But Jane Eyre didn't linger in family history or detailed descriptions of each characters' innate nature, the way a lot of books from that time period tend to do. There was always a strong sense of forward motion. Jane Eyre was also really firmly grounded in the physical setting of each scene through the vivid descriptions of the rich rooms of Thornfield and the desolate moors, etc, which made the book a pleasure to read. Though the language sounded at times a little convoluted to my ear, and my edition left in the odd tense changes from the original, Jane Eyre really reads like a contemporary novel.
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Reading Progress

12/21/2011 page 391
66.0% "Ohhh I'm loving this book."
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