An orphan girl's progress from the custody of cruel relatives to an oppressive boarding school culminates in a troubled career as a governess. Jane's first assignment at Thornfield, where the proud and cynical master harbors a scandalous secret, draws readers ever deeper into a compelling exploration of the mysteries of the human heart.
Let's set the scene...
We're still sitting on the bus stop bench with Rory, Lane and Dean:
Dean: Yeah, yeah. Hey, what's that? [picks up the bag of cookies]
Rory: Just some cookies.
Dean: Rocky road.
Dean: Wow, she brings me cookies. How can I repay her?
Rory: How about a little Charlotte Bronte?
Dean: How about something else? [kisses her]
Rory: That's good, too.
Last year around this time, I was enjoying my annual camping trip in Amish Country (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) with my wonderful in-laws and my husband. It was Aldeux' first trip, and therefore, it was the first time I had been in Amish Country without essentially needing a separate camper to hold all my books. It was a wonderful, freeing feeling to have one small device with every book I could possibly hope for. With the glory of the invention of the Kindle and the subsequent access to free classic literature, I used this vacation to really catch up on the classics I had been outrageously ignoring for years. I decided to read Jane Eyre, a book that (obviously... I don't live under a rock) I had heard so much about but had never really thought twice about. A few pages in, I had that a-ha moment... when you finally got around to reading a book that is a classic and fully realize WHY it's considered a classic. I could have kicked myself for not reading this earlier. It's actually funny because when I think about it... I realize that Jane Eyre was kind of the catalyst for The Black White & Read Book Challenge. Ms. Eyre made me realize just how much I had missed.
Because I read Jane Eyre last year, the rules said I didn't have to read it again. But I enjoyed the eldest Bronte's famous novel so immensely that I couldn't pass up the chance to experience it again. However, I decided to take a different approach. There are a few really great free audiobook apps available on the iPhone, so I took advantage of this. It was a wonderful experience to hear Charlotte Bronte's words read to me. It really highlighted the richness of her language and the cadence of her writing. I highly recommend that everyone listen to Jane Eyre at least once on audiobook. I enjoyed the book when I read it... but I couldn't get over how much more I got out of Bronte's portrait of a young woman in Victorian-era England when experienced via the spoken word. [I said "experience" a lot in that last paragraph]
There is so much to say about Jane Eyre, but in the interest of keeping my readers from drooling on their keyboards... I'm going to try to keep it really brief and broad. In the end, Bronte tells a tale that spotlights the duality and the expectation of the roles of Victorian women. The behavior of the main male characters brings to light the issue in how men saw women within that time period (hell, how some behind-the-times douchers STILL see them in 2012). Women were expected to be soft-spoken and demure, but the men wanted to fall in love with someone passionate and interesting. It's a slightly less Oedipal version of the Madonna-Whore Complex that appears to be granted to some men along with their genitalia. You want her to go all Rosie the Riveter, but Jane succumbs to the only life she's known... she refers to Edward as "my master" even after she leaves Thornfield and their less-than-professional relationship has been exposed. In reading books from this era, it's easy to get frustrated that the chicks don't just turn around and say "I'm putting on a pair of pants and I'm keeping my last name!"... but you need to go into novels of this nature with a firm grasp on the social norms of the time period. Although, I will say... Twilight was written in 2005. And the always-obnoxious Bella Swan is equally as subservient to Edward Cullen as Jane is to Mr. Rochester. Apparently we haven't gotten as far as I'd like to believe. Rosie would be disappointed. [And yes, I just compared Jane Eyre to Twilight]
In the end, Jane Eyre is a book that everyone should read once in their lifetime. It's an easy read (or listen) and although some crazies on the Amazon's review call it "super long"... let's just say that I don't think you should be allowed to post stuff on the internet after an 8 day crack bender. Bronte can turn a phrase like no other... and you'll find yourself interested, excited and appalled as you read.
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
I'm not quite sure why... but I see Jane Eyre as being a story Rory would appreciate. Nevermind the fact that we read this in the first place because SHE recommended Charlotte Bronte to Dean. We're just going to ignore that little obvious reason. I want to seem deeper, yo!