I don’t know how many times I have read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (or Currer Bell as she called herself when it was first published) but it’s one of the few books I never get tired of – it’s just such a wonderful story!
The writing is very old-fashioned and may seem slow to a modern reader, but the emotions conveyed are really intense and you can’t help but empathise with the heroine right from the start.
Orphaned as a baby, Jane is taken in by her uncle (her mother’s brother), but sadly he dies and she’s left in the care of the uncle’s wife who is no relation to her by blood. The aunt, Mrs Reed, is a horrid woman who treats Jane very badly, always preferring her own children and allowing them to mistreat Jane as well without being punished. When Jane finally rebels, she is sent away to school – a charitable institution where she suffers even more misery, but eventually it serves to give her a good education. This, in turn, allows her to apply for a job as a governess and she ends up at Thornfield Hall where she is to teach the ward of a Mr Rochester.
I won’t do any spoilers, but the love story between Jane and Mr Rochester is incredibly well done. She thinks she’s plain and insignificant, but Mr Rochester makes her feel loved and desired. He understands her, continuously spars with her verbally and challenges her at every turn. He’s a charismatic (though not particularly handsome) but secretive man who has travelled the world and lived a life of dissipation, but Jane’s courage and innate honesty attracts him as nothing else ever has. She gives his life a purpose again, makes him want to be a better person. But, of course, there is an obstacle to their happy-ever-after …
These days, authors are told to keep their writing short and snappy – not so in the 19th century. “Why write only one sentence when twenty will do just as well” seems to have been their motto. But even though the prose is long-winded at times, you are swept away by the intense love story and the drama of this novel. You are rooting for Jane, wanting her to be happy at last and have revenge on those who have treated her badly. And although the ending isn’t quite what I would have wished it to be, it’s near enough and never puts me off reading the story all over again.
For those who can’t be bothered to read the long and convoluted sentences of Ms Brontë, but who would still like to discover this amazing tale, I can definitely recommend the BBC’s latest adaptation of it (featuring Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson), which to my mind is most faithful to the original and really does it justice. But really, it’s worth reading every word of the novel in order to really inhabit the world of Jane Eyre, I promise!
Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting. The fourth one in the series – New England Dreams – is out now!