Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jane Eyre is an excellent story with great characters and is told by a master of the art. Each person that is introduced is brought out in marvelous clarity; even the minor characters in the book are seen as distinct individuals, not just impersonal voices who appear to say a line and then exit stage. Charlotte Bronte’s ability to express feelings and mood often approaches what would best be described as poetry. In addition to this, the conversations are unbelievably terrific. So often a writer excels at one and does the other poorly, but not Charlotte Bronte—she does both with skill and beauty.
Jane Eyre isn’t without fault as far as I’m concerned, though. Three aspects, in particular, keep it from being so:
- First, there were several places where Bronte went on too long about things that were of no importance to the story and of little interest. I subscribe to the principle: you have a story to tell, tell it without taking long detours. If it was a modern novel, I would say she was concerned about a certain word count, but perhaps they were in her days also, which would explain it. Whatever the reason, there is much that could be cut out with good effect.
- Second, I wish she would have refrained from addressing the reader. I don’t like that because it dispels the feeling or mood that a scene is creating by reminding me that I am just reading a book. How much sense does it make for a writer to work diligently to pull us into their imaginary world just to snap us out by saying something like ‘dear reader...’ I only want to be reminded that I’m just reading a book when it’s time to stop reading, not while I’m caught up in it. This might best be put under a pet peeve, whereas the other two issues I stand firm about.
- Third, the conclusion. By that, I mean the very last few paragraphs of the book. Bronte spent them talking about and quoting St. John (the character in the book, not the Bible writer), of all people. It was almost like she felt some pang of conscience about writing what is essentially a secular story and was compelled to end with a religious message and scriptural references. I don’t mind Bible quotes and things like that, but St. John was such an unlikeable character and was of little consequence to the overall story, why have him be the last person we hear about? What mattered most to me when I got to the end was how things turned out for Jane, the person who had gone through so many trials and challenges.
Those three things aside, I will reiterate, this is a wonderful book—indeed, a masterpiece. Anyone who thinks of it just in terms of a romance novel is basing their opinion on some movie adaptation and not the book. Not that I think romance novels can’t be great; Jane Austen puts the lie to that notion. But to distill Jane Eyre to just a story about a man and woman falling in love is as ridiculous as relegating it to simply a story written for young girls to read. It is epic in its scope of covering the range of human emotions and doing so in a way that a person would have to be made of marble not to be touched. The book masterfully takes us through the depths of despair and the heights of great joys and even the everyday coping with life with the flare that only a genius can. So glad I got a better copy and was able to read the real story.
Note: Goodreads rating is as follows:
did not like it
it was okay
really liked it
it was amazing
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