Tuesday, January 26, 2010

REVIEW: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

If there is one thing I love in a book it’s a feisty heroine and the title character, Jane Eyre is definitely that. We are introduced to Jane as a child when she is put into the care of an uncle after the untimely death of her parents. Unfortunately the uncle also dies, extracting a deathbed promise from his wife, Mrs. Reed, to raise Jane and treat her as one of her own, a promise she fails to deliver on. Mrs. Reed treats her spoiled children Georgiana, Eliza, and John like royalty while treating Jane worse than the hired help. Mrs. Reed is finally given her opportunity to rid herself of Jane when after a particular bought of cruelty in which Jane falls ill, the man treating her sees her potential and suggests she be sent to school.

Jane is sent to Lowood School- an institution big on learning and discipline and not much else, including the health of the girls. Jane spends eight years at the institution-six as a student and two as a teacher before deciding she needed a change. She advertises for a position as a Governess and is answered by one Mrs. Fairfax who hires her to come to Thornfield Hall as Governess for young Adele, ward of the oft absent master of the house, Mr. Rochester. Jane settles into her new home and meets her employer quite by accident when assists him after a fall from his horse. At first Jane sees little of her brilliant but temperamental employer but slowly they are drawn together. Jane begins to develop feelings for Mr. Rochester but becomes confused when he starts paying attention to the beautiful but haughty Blanche Ingram who treats Jane with contempt because of her position. Meanwhile strange incidents keep happening. Someone attempts to set fire to Mr. Rochester’s bed and a stabbing of a houseguest occurs. Jane suspects Grace Poole, a servant of the household, and cannot fathom why Mr. Rochester keeps her around.

The dismayed Governess soon wishes to leave Thornfield Hall if it means having to put up with Blanche. Her wish is granted in the form of a summons by her long lost aunt Mrs. Reed. Mrs. Reed is now on her deathbed and wishes Jane to come with all haste so that she may speak with her before she passes. Jane returns to the place of her horrid childhood to find the same old hate filled Mrs. Reed who is sometimes lucid and sometimes not. An entire month goes by before Mrs. Reed finally passes on but not before giving Jane a letter telling Jane she has a living Eyre relative that wished to find her. Jane returns to Thornfield Hall and finds Mr. Rochester there. After an impassioned discussion between the two, Jane tells her boss of her feelings for him and that she will not be happy at the new job he found her in Ireland as it would be too far away from him. He too confesses he loves her and could never marry Ms. Ingram as she only wanted his money. He asks Jane to marry him and she agrees.

Shortly after another strange incident occurs as Jane finds an intruder in her room in the middle of the night. Finally the wedding day arrives. The couple arrives at the church and start the ceremony only to have it interrupted by an objection. It appears Mr. Rochester has a shady past and a secret that prevents him from marrying Jane. He pleads with her to stay but Jane’s strict moral code will not allow her to overlook his past. Penniless she pleads Thornfield Hall and winds up in the small town of Whitcross, nearly starving to death before she is taken in by the Rivers family who nurse her back to health. She finds a position as a school teacher through St. John Rivers and is happy for a time. When an uncle of the Rivers family dies leaving them next to nothing in favor of a mysterious cousin, it is soon revealed is that cousin and is now rich. She splits the money with the Rivers family and yearns to find out the fate of Mr. Rochester after her flight from Thornfield. After several unanswered letters she decides to travel there only to find the place burned down. She tracks Mr. Rochester down after learning he suffered an accident which left him crippled. She also learns that the problems from his past are resolved and the two find their happy ending.

I liked many things about this book, namely that Jane was not rich or beautiful but she was smart, principled, and had spunk- all of which served her well. I also loved that Mr. Rochester was described as not at all handsome and was a very complex brooding character and not your normal love interest. The mystery of Mr. Rochester’s past which I tried not to give away here, kept the story lively and with the bend the story took with Jane’s flight from Thornfield you weren’t quite sure if Jane and Mr. Rochester would end up together especially after another potential future was introduced for Jane.

A few things irked me about the novel though. My biggest question was if Mr. Rochester had such affection for Jane even if no one knew about it at that point, why would he let Ms. Ingram treat her so poorly and why did he act like he adored Ms. Ingram so much if she was such a haughty, nasty character? Also I may just not be remembering the story correctly, but I’m wondering why didn’t Jane seek the long lost relative on her own instead of finding him by chance through his connection with the Rivers? Other than that I liked the story even if it took me forever to read it (small print = slow reading).

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library

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