Bram's Reviews > Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
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May 26, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010
Read from March 28 to May 21, 2010

What was once something I tossed off instinctively, an out-of-five star rating, has become a source of considerable consternation. I feel as if I need to qualify each rating with the not-too-fine print warning of: ‘this does not reflect my judgment of the literary worth of this novel; rather, it’s a simple reflection of how strongly I responded to the work as a whole.’ But isn’t this just what everyone does? I guess so. So maybe it isn’t necessary, and it’s just come to feel that way because I’ve stopped writing reviews; I’ve stopped explaining myself. So from here on maybe I’ll cease providing star ratings (unlikely), or I’ll start writing reviews regularly again (more unlikely), or I’ll simply have to endure the faux/semi-faux/real outrage of my fellow Goodreaders (bring it, Harrison!). Incidentally, I think I’ve enough friends now that inciting somebody is inevitable by bestowing even four stars on a well-loved book. Three? Three is right out.

And three is what we have here. Much of the charm of Jane Eyre is found in what, for me, kept this book from resonating significantly at this particular point in my life, one where I respond more strongly to the moral ambiguities and realities of the types presented in The Portrait of a Lady, Middlemarch, or The Kreutzer Sonata. Jane Eyre is a fairytale; it has a good deal of nobility on display in word and deed, and anything that doesn’t fall into this description is roundly labeled as vice and deplored appropriately. I’ve been made aware that, for its time, this novel takes some pretty bold risks in terms of social exploration. But for a reader who’s only mildly concerned with historical context this can feel like pretty cheap consolation, and I often yearned for Jane to expose a thought that fell outside of respectability, one that suggested she might be a human being.

But Jane Eyre is a fairytale, one that perhaps commonly avoids this label due to a single deviation: no magic. (Actually, there is a rather literal deus ex machina near the end, but this is a conspicuous exception.) Besides this near total lack of physical violations, however, the book reads like a fleshed out fable with hints of everything from Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast. And this is, of course, intentional. It may also explain why this novel is often assigned or suggested to pre-adults. Brontë frequently makes allusions to folk and fairy stories, and her characters, particularly Rochester, often refer to each other as magical beings (e.g. elves, spirits) to key us in to the nature of the story as well as to help explain the mysterious, ethereal power one person can have over another.

But while I can remain endlessly entertained by exploring the thoughts and emotions of real, human characters, I have a harder time these days remaining engaged in a more ethically simplistic world. To be honest, Jane Eyre came closest to being my first abandoned novel since I joined Goodreads. I rarely reached for it on the bedside table; it never seemed to make the travel cut when I was packing my suitcase. It was a form of escapism I didn’t feel like delving into. So perhaps, when conjoined with this background, my star rating makes more sense; it might even appear generous.

The last 200 pages of the book do mostly redeem it. The plot starts to unfold with well-paced precision after having spent a good bit of time wandering between tedium and unconvincing melodrama, and I found myself genuinely wanting to continue, to see how this story would play out. So the book finished on a high note, and I feel no dishonesty in claiming, with a three-star click, that ‘I liked it.’

But upon some reflection and after receiving some welcome comments asking for further explanation, I realized that, apart from my issues with the characters, dialogue, and pacing early on, I had some fundamental problems with the story being told here. In particular, I have issues with the Jane-Rochester love affair and its resolution. Jane and Rochester can’t be together due to a technicality, but one that has tremendous potency in this early 19th century setting. Because it’s a technicality all the same, readers recognize it for what it is: a gross injustice. Rochester, in his fiery passion, wishes to transgress this infuriating obstacle and presents Jane with her first significant temptation—to be or not to be the mistress of the man she loves. Jane has already learned of his past dalliances, however, and she suspects that giving in to him will lead to short-term bliss and long-term misery. Only through marriage to Rochester, which is impossible, would she be able to achieve long-term happiness. If we take this at fairytale face value, it makes sense: marriage = happily ever after—50 years of marriage and no strife; mistressness = 1 month of happiness, a few months of strife, and eternal solitude thereafter.

But Brontë seems aware that this fairytale situation is unbelievable. Rochester is, supposedly, an actual person whose feelings are not dictated entirely by a marriage slip. If he truly loves Jane but will lose interest at some point if they remain unmarried, then it follows that he will also lose interest if they’re married. He may not be able to leave her in that case, but this restriction would surely lead to even greater marital suffering and enmity. So the question is: how can we get to a situation that allows for a happy marriage given Rochester’s recurring profligacy? There’s a power differential here, of course, due to a number of factors: 1) inequality of sex; 2) inequality of social standing/money; 3) inequality of age. Mrs. Fairfax, the kind, old housekeeper, believes that these differences (that is, the second two) will lead to an unhappy marriage. And she’s uneasy about it before she learns of the technicality that inhibits the marriage. She recognizes that this is not a fairytale; this is marriage.

So even when/if the technicality is removed, we still have this whole inequality thing to get around that’s brought up through Mrs. Fairfax. Again: how does Brontë fix all of this into a believable, acceptable marriage? How can she tame the wild, passionate, and superior Rochester and deliver him into a believably-permanent union? Aha! She mutilates him—physically. And the injury comes while he’s acting the hero, naturally. This is genius: it evens out Rochester’s intrinsic advantages, supplying him with a new neediness and permanent social scar, and it provides the bonus of boosting Jane’s already unbesmirchable character. Furthermore, while Rochester’s off nursing his newly reduced status, Jane’s busy inheriting money and making connections with her newfound cousins. The once unthinkable match has become exceptionally acceptable. Victory: status quo.

Kelly and Moira have already addressed my criticisms in the comments below, and since there are multiple angles from which you can view this issue, you can certainly draw your own conclusions. Would I have felt more generous in my appraisal of the love affair if I’d responded more positively to this book on a gut level? Probably. But I can’t help feeling that even while she pushes the envelope in certain ways (e.g. critiquing extreme religious fervor), Brontë ultimately reinforces many inequalities that were, to be fair, endemic to her culture. Even so, I think I’d be more sympathetic to this point if the Jane-Rochester pairing didn’t feel like a regression from some of Jane Austen’s romantic set-ups.

In the end, I think Jane Eyre was a case of the wrong book at the wrong time. The themes didn’t resonate like they could have, and I was overly-hesitant to let myself get swept up in Brontë’s mystical world, one that’s perhaps meant to resemble ours only superficially. I came looking for a 21st century relationship in 19th century England; I came looking for emotional depth and found simple forbearance; I came looking for ambiguity and found clarity; I came looking for real people and found saints and monsters.
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Reading Progress

05/12 page 248
05/17 page 290
54.41% "Engaged already?"
04/11 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 78) (78 new)

Bram Yep :) I'm not very far in yet, maybe a little over halfway through the first volume. Is it common knowledge that the beginning of Harry Potter is a thinly-veiled homage/copy of the beginning of Jane Eyre? Harry's and Jane's situations with the Dursleys and Reeds, respectively, are nearly indentical.

Bram Uh-oh...ruth...ruth. Not ringing a bell. I'm familiar with the Ruth from the Bible though, so I'll keep that in mind going forward (or is that not what you were getting at?).

I've read Mansfield Park, but I don't remember the beginning very well, although my general impression is that Fanny's situation wasn't as harsh or dwelled upon (this could be completely, totally wrong).

Anyway, I've been reading this fairly slowly, so it's probably going to be a while until I finish. I've picked up a lot of books recently, even ones on my barely-reading shelf. Nothing's really grabbing me at the moment. Sigh.

message 3: by Bram (last edited Apr 16, 2010 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Awesome, thanks for pointing me in the right direction...I'll definitely come back to ask questions along with way. I think my reading has been far too shallow thus far; I need to redouble my efforts.

Re: Mansfield Park, I guess I felt Fanny's situation was not as extreme as Jane's, perhaps because she was older and had at least some friendly faces around most of the time (Jane just had Bessie, who was sort of unpredictable). Harry and Jane are both so young and are treated poorly/unjustly with incredible consistency, almost to the point of unbelievability.

message 4: by Bram (last edited Apr 17, 2010 05:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram I'll gladly accept your version, as my Mansfield Park reading is quite hazy at this point. I even wrote a paper on the book, but I couldn't tell you what it was about.

Heh, that's true about school. Lots of typhoid though, which might be worse than dementors.

I'm at the point now where Jane's just met Rochester.

Kelly I'm at the point now where Jane's just met Rochester.

In other words, the REAL story. Or so Hollywood tells me. How are you getting along with Jane now? Is she grabbing you yet? (That sounds wrong...) I remember it took me a good chunk of pages to get into this one.

message 6: by Bram (last edited Apr 21, 2010 08:01AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram I'm still waiting for an aggressive grabbing. :)

I've been reading very little in general lately, so I can't put too much of the blame on Miss Jane.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I tried a Jane re-read recently, after I finished wuthering, and I just couldn't get into it, so I wandered off. Sorry Jane!

E, I love how you are the Fanny Price Anti-Defamation League!

*Whispered aside to Bram* I didn't really like her either, but I do get what Elizabeth's on about. Fanny is like Jane, but instead of being spunky, she's principled. This is maybe not accurate either.

Bram Good to know that Jane Eyre doesn't necessarily enchant right from the beginning--that gives me some good encouragement going forward. I definitely don't dislike this book, but it has yet to make much of an impression on me.

I was wondering why I couldn't remember Fanny better, and I think you may have hit on it, Ceridwen--calm and principled doesn't stick in the old memory quite as well.

message 9: by Kelly (last edited Apr 21, 2010 08:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Fanny is like Jane, but instead of being spunky, she's principled.

Yeah, this is it. She just doesn't have much of a personality- I almost felt like Austen gave us people mistreating her to make us like her in place of spending more time creating a person. I never got enough of the "why" Fanny did stuff, other than "this is wrong" and "this is right." Jane gives me a whole world. (Disclaimer: I haven't read Mansfield Park in a few years, so I may be due for a new impression of Miss Price.)

Also: They gave Fanny an AWESOME personality in the recent (2002ish?) movie they made of Mansfield Park- the one with James Purefoy and Jonny Lee Miller. I love that movie. But it seems more drawn from an idea about Jane herself than the character in the book.

I definitely don't dislike this book, but it has yet to make much of an impression on me.

Give Jane some time! I think she grows on you. If by some chance she doesn't grow on you though, you should meet Lucy Snowe instead. Villette will knock your socks off.

message 10: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Like, literally doused? I don't think so.

Alas, I'll be gone from the Western Hemisphere come October. Fanny will have to wait a good while longer for a critical reappraisal.

message 11: by Kelly (last edited Apr 21, 2010 09:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Yeah, you haven't gotten to the fun parts yet.

Mwahahaha- yeah, just keep reading. Also, where are you off to, Bram? Sounds exciting! (Sorry if I'm being too nosy.)

And, I think you need to know Jane before you meet Lucy.

I think you might be right about this. Lucy might be too hard to get at on her own.

message 12: by Bram (last edited Apr 21, 2010 10:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram I'm off to study medicine in Israel at the Medical School for International Health (joint project between Columbia U. and Ben-Gurion U.), so I'll be in Israel and other parts of the world for the next 3 years or so, beginning in July, before heading to Columbia for year 4. Should be quite an adventure.

So anyway, Hebrew studying has been taking up a good chunk of my reading time. :)

I actually hadn't even heard of any other Charlotte Bronte books...I think I got her confused with Emily, who wrote only one novel. (right?) Whoops.

message 13: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram The first 2 years are in English, luckily, so I don't need to be proficient until 2012. So far no one has failed to get by during 3rd year, so unless I'm the worst language student they've ever had, I should be ok. :)

Ack, I don't think I know anything about Anne either. Have you read both of her novels? Good?

message 14: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Ah, cool! I never thought to look for Israelis/people living in Israel on Goodreads.

And of course I haven't forgotten! (Cringes with shame/embarrassment). Somehow I never connected that one to the author. Ah, so out of it these days.

Kelly Wow, Bram, have a fabulous time in Israel, good luck with all that language study. I bet you'll figure it out- I imagine two years and the pressure of it counting for school will help. :)

message 16: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Also, remember your bible. Bronte knew everything. If you think you see an allusion or a theme, you are probably right."

Yesssssss. Thackeray said if it had been written by a woman, she certainly knew her classics.

message 17: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Kelly wrote: "In other words, the REAL story. Or so Hollywood tells me."

Haaaaa. I always pout when adaptations (and they always do) skip over Jane's childhood - altho I suppose there's no real way to present it as amazingly as she shows it in the book.

message 18: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Lucy Snowe will rip open your heart, baffle, confuse, stomp, make you hate her, and then make you love her. "

YES AHAHAHA. Jane Eyre is world-class, but Villette is even better. Such a shame Branwell killed everyone with TB and then Charlotte had to get married and pregnancy killed her, &c &c. Villette is really like nothing else - marvelous.

message 19: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Yeah, you haven't gotten to the fun parts yet."

Like the biting!

message 20: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "People forget Tenant all the time."

Tenant is really awesome. It's such a shame Charlotte suppressed it after Anne's death.

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Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "I didn't know that. Considering the other works of those sisters, it can't be because of how radical it is. Why was it suppressed? "

OH DUDE. Well, Charlotte was convinced it was Anne's Warning to the World having been faced with the example of Branwell's dissipation/supposed adultery for years at Thorp Greene and then back at the parsonage, and, well, Charlotte defended her choice not to reprint it after Anne died:

'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,' by Acton Bell, had likewise an unfavourable reception. At this I cannot wonder. The choice of subject was an entire mistake. Nothing less congruous with the writer's nature could be conceived. The motives which dictated this choice were pure, but, I think, slightly morbid. She had, in the course of her life, been called on to contemplate, near at hand, and for a long time, the terrible effects of talents misused and faculties abused: hers was naturally a sensitive, reserved, and dejected nature; what she saw sank very deeply into her mind; it did her harm. She brooded over it till she believed it to be a duty to reproduce every detail (of course with fictitious characters, incidents, and situations), as a warning to others. She hated her work, but would pursue it. When reasoned with on the subject, she regarded such reasonings as a temptation to self- indulgence. She must be honest; she must not varnish, soften, nor conceal. This well-meant resolution brought on her misconstruction, and some abuse, which she bore, as it was her custom to bear whatever was unpleasant, with mild, steady patience. She was a very sincere, and practical Christian, but the tinge of religious melancholy communicated a sad shade to her brief, blameless life.

This misses I think not only that there is a great deal of humour and warmth in Tenant - she makes it sound like a joyless tract - but also that it's a possible response to WH. Charlotte really did underestimate Anne (she rhapsodizes about Emily's poetry for paragraphs, then writes, 'I thought that ((Anne's)) verses, too, had a sweet, sincere pathos of their own', frex). Anne was v much the baby of the family, and I think her major emotional attachment was to Emily; I don't think, as Margot Peters suggests in the biography of Charlotte that I just read, that she was unconsciously jealous - even posthumously - of Anne's closeness to Emily, but that might have been something of a factor. Often the people we live with daily and are closest to can baffle us more than strangers. Charlotte admitted Emily escaped her understanding, but she was rather awed by it; I think she underestimated and misunderstood most of Anne's qualities in the same fashion. (Which isn't to say she didn't love or appreciate them, just, OMG she was the proverbial bossy eldest sister, v understandably so since her mother and then two maternal figures died nearly in front of her and she had to take up that role.)

Also, as revealed in a letter of Anne's discovered fairly recently I think (it's reprinted as an appendix to her Gerin bio) she was specifically writing against Calvinist doctrines in favour of the more controversial 'universal salvation,' and included references to that in the novel (Gerin rather charmingly if improbably concludes Helen's and her aunt's debates wrt predestination in the novel are based on conversations between Anne and Aunt Branwell). That actually was fairly radical for the time, as were the depictions of Helen earning her own living by painting, refusing to let her husband influence her son, and not giving in to his abuse sexually or psychologically. Anne's resistance to the idea that the moral education of children meant boys were exposed to vice but girls sheltered like hothouse flowers was also pretty radical - and echoes Charlotte's Jane Eyre saying 'Women feel just as men do,' which was really not an accepted social idea at the time.

(Interestingly enough a number of critics make the point Branwell was probably not the model for the drunk, abusive Huntington - as Charlotte claims above - but possibly Lowborough, a drug addict and alcoholic who is pulled down by his companions.)

message 22: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Moira, this is great. My copy of Tenant said that her observation of the vices was from her time as a nanny.

Whaaaaa....I can see that for Agnes, maybe (a lot of that was apparently transcribed from life - the episode of the chicks &c) but as Daphne du Maurier says, if the Robinsons at Thorp Green had been like the Huntingtons in TWH Anne would have been 'either a fool or a criminal' to take her vulnerable brother Branwell there, and she was neither. I _do_ think she witnessed probably at least some affection between Branwell and Mrs Robinson (coo-coo-ca-choo) and a general air of jaded worldly sophistication which she disliked v much, but the biographers mainly make it clear the true scenes of debauchery came after Anne quit and then Branwell was fired and he came home to the parsonage to drown himself in melancholy and laudanum, while the sisters three scribbled away to make their fortunes (he might have inspired Hindley more than Heatchliff, but anyway).

Charlotte disagreed? Hm. Really interesting.

Yeah, I think Charlotte was mainly thinking of the white nights Branwell put everybody through at the parsonage - carving-knives under pillows, bedcurtains going up in flames, shouting matches between Branwell and his father, Branwell coming home drunk at all hours, and so on. It's really amazing to me to think that while he was throwing such an epic destructive temper tantrum the girls were all writing away at the books that would make them justly famous.

I do agree the book is radical. I just meant it wasn't any more radical than the books her sisters were writing.

Oh yeah - I guess I am always a little defensive of Anne because she is seen as the rather weak puny untalented Bronte (which impression Charlotte rather fostered, um).

It always comes back to Villette for me. Holy cow.

I often think that is the best of all their novels - certainly it's my secret personal favourite. If she could do THAT, at what not even thirty, what else could she have done? Like Jane (and Keats et al) she was clearly just at the height of her powers. It's amazing and saddening to think what she might have written at forty or fifty.

message 23: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "I read it last year but I keep looking at it on my bookshelf, wondering how long I should wait before I read it again."

Do it! do it! Hee. But really, that is a book that pays off lots of rereads. It's so amazing.

message 24: by Bram (last edited May 20, 2010 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Hmmm...Rochester's wife seems almost to be a living representation of the madness/vileness/moral taint of the West Indian slave trade. Maybe I'm reading too much into it?

message 25: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Hmmm...Rochester's wife seems almost to be a living representation of the madness/vileness/moral taint of the West Indian slave trade. Maybe I'm reading too much into it?"

Not at all, we talked about that in grad school!

message 26: by Moira (last edited May 20, 2010 06:47PM) (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "But Charlotte didn't like Jane Austen. Austen does the same thing in Mansfield Park, just a little more subtly. :-) (Sorry, I know, we talked about it before, didn't mean to bring it up again)."

I think Charlotte's use of it is more Romantic and psychological (can't think of better terms, ow cramps) - Bertha partly embodies Rochester's sin and even Jane's passion if unchecked,* but he also tells Jane that since his father didn't want him to inherit his fair share, the marriage was arranged for thirty thousand pounds. And at the end, his great estate is destroyed and while he's still a gentleman his circumstances are very reduced - while she has a legacy of her own (and shares it fairly). She can even say to him '"If you won’t let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening"' (always loved that bit).

Charlotte does some interesting twisty stuff with disenfranchised women getting power and powerful men being brought low, but I think it's more psychological than political, if that makes sense (e.g. when they get the news that St John has been passed over unfairly in favour of an unknown cousin, they don't know it's Jane sitting right there). Jane's own wealth comes from another colonialist slave colony, Maderia - and the doodle which gives Jane away to St John is written in India ink.

*it's also interesting that he says she was 'in the style of Blanche Ingram'....

message 27: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Psst, Moira, Bram hasn't finished the book yet."


.....fuck, Bram, I'm really sorry.

message 28: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 06:52AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Haha, that's ok--I've already gotten far enough that you didn't spoil anything. The whole Jane inheritance subplot starts brewing well before anyway (when Aunt Reed dies), and it's fairly obvious how the pieces are going to come together as soon as we see the 3 siblings read the letter and explain it to Jane. She doesn't know what's going on, but any marginally attentive reader does (by the way, I think I fall into the 'marginally attentive' group, as I completely missed the India ink/Mederia connection...oops).

I always found Austen's subtle reference to the slave trade in Mansfield Park to be fascinating. In fact, it's the part of the book that's stuck with me most despite being so slight.

message 29: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Haha, that's ok--I've already gotten far enough that you didn't spoil anything"

OH GOOD because I uh sort of foretold the entire book! GOOD JOB, MOI.

The whole Jane inheritance subplot starts brewing well before anyway (when Aunt Reed dies), and it's fairly obvious how the pieces are going to come together as soon as we see the 3 siblings read the letter and explain it to Jane. She doesn't know what's going on, but any marginally attentive reader does

Yeah, JE has a lot of fairytale elements, and mirrorings like that (the three Reeds, the three Rivers, Rochester's three mistresses, &c &c).

message 30: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 08:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Yes, 'fairy tale' would be the primary way I'd describe this book.

message 31: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "don't feel bad, Bram, I didn't get the India ink/Mederia thing either. "

Ha, I didn't get it myself til I had to read a litcrit essay in that seminar, I was so used to thinking of 'India ink' as just art supplies!

The essay also talked about all the slave imagery Jane uses, in relation to John Reed and St John and even Mr R., and how the time of the novel is possibly the 1820's-30's when there were slave revolts all over the colonies, &c. (there are hints the time from which Jane is narrating is 1846, when Charlotte began writing it, but the chronology's rather fuzzy).

message 32: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Yes, 'fairy tale' would be the primary way I'd describe this book."

A lot of it is certainly Romantic and fantastic (the telepathy, the tree being struck down, the orphan restored to her rightful social place, &c). And of course the Brontes' juvenilia grew out of the Arabian Nights with themselves as the Geniuses, &c.

message 33: by Kelly (last edited May 21, 2010 08:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Hey Bram, I just wanted to pop in to say that if you're interested in the madness/vileness of colonialism critique part of the book, you should read Wide Sargasso Sea by EDITED: Jean Rhys. It focuses on Bertha's life before she was the crazy woman in the attic- there's a lot of feminist stuff in there, it's very atmospheric, but I think you might like it.

message 34: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Kelly wrote: "Hey Bram, I just wanted to pop in to say that if you're interested in the madness/vileness of colonialism critique part of the book, you should read Wide Sargasso Sea by John Rhys"

YES, totally seconded - it's a gorgeous book - by Jean Rhys, tho. She's really marvelous. WSS is truly haunting.

Kelly Ergh. Jean. Apologies to the sisterhood for giving credit to a man for that one. Post in haste, repent soon enough. Thanks for the correction, Moira. :)

But, Bram, you really should read it, you know. I finished it and I didn't have a ton concrete to say about it, but I still remember all the feelings of it.

message 36: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Awesome, I'll check it out. Thanks for the tip, guys.

message 37: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Kelly wrote: "Thanks for the correction, Moira. :)"

Hee, as long as I don't get annoying....she's one of my favourite writers, so I noticed.

Kelly It's amazing. (Like you needed another voice in its support). One of my favorite books in college. And short!

Yes yes! So short, I definitely think it's one of those books you should try to read in an evening, if possible, or two at most. Don't let the spell lose its effect. Like Silk.

message 39: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Wow, St. John just became one of the creepiest characters in the history of literature. Gross. (Not because he wants to marry his cousin, which is unsurprising, but because of his hideous religious rhetoric.)

message 40: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Wow, St. John just became one of the creepiest characters in the history of literature"

Dude, I remember that litcrit prof saying something like, in a typical Victorian novel St John would be the hero, Jane would marry him and it would be a happy ending! JE really was rather shocking for its day.

message 41: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Gaskell was trying to fit them back into the Victorian box by making excuses for them (oh they grew up isolated, away from good society, etc.) when really they were just pissed off at that society"

YES, totally. I mean I kind of adore Mrs Gaskell because she sounds so warm and cuddly, but she did say that immortal thing about wanting to prove Charlotte was a proper woman and Christian (can't quite remember). Augh. (Altho Charlotte did lay the groundwork for that herself by saying that Emily and Anne knew no society but their own, didn't draw from books, &c &c.)

message 42: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Have you read The Bronte Myth? I've probably mentioned it before."

No! I have it but haven't read it - a lot of people have rec'd it (altho I don't think you mentioned it to me - yet!).

message 43: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Elizabeth, I think I'll be ready to start Tender is the Night as early as Monday--does that work for you?

message 44: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Ah, ummm, ahem...did I promise that?

message 45: by Bram (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram I see. Well, umm, yeah...I don't know.

message 46: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Elizabeth, I think I'll be ready to start Tender is the Night as early as Monday--does that work for you?"

Oh, that book is awesome.

message 47: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Bram wrote: "Ah, ummm, ahem...did I promise that?"

Aww, you must write a review!

message 48: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram Sorry guys, I think I'm retired. :)

message 49: by Kelly (last edited May 21, 2010 12:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kelly Three stars? Could you just explain why that rating if you're not going to write a review (which does make me sad!)? If you don't mind, that is? Did St. John take away a star in a creepiness penalty? :)

PS, also: Tender is the Night is my favorite Fitzgerald. Hope you guys enjoy!

message 50: by Bram (last edited May 21, 2010 12:39PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bram No, St. John's creepiness definitely didn't hurt, haha. I vastly preferred the last 200 pages of the book; I could barely pick this one up many times in the early going.

I guess the easiest/shortest way to justify the star rating would be to say that it felt like a solid step below other Realist novels I've read recently (The Portrait of a Lady, Middlemarch). Thematically, it didn't provide much in the way of adult gray areas (like in the two aforementioned books), and it felt almost trapped within its fairy tale universe. The dialogue and descriptions (which are often one and the same) can become tedious or melodramatic for long stretches. And yeah, a lot of the dialogue just didn't work for me. As compared to Jane Austen, say, it felt rather unnatural, and the pacing was also inferior--the desire to describe mundane things is fine with (and often eagerly received by) me, just as long as it isn't done in a mundane or clunkily-purple fashion; unfortunately, I felt like this was a pretty tough slog at times, tougher than almost anything else I've read recently.

That said, I did enjoy it overall, particularly once the story kicked into gear with the failed marriage attempt.

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