I've always loved the classics, however Jane Eyre is one of my favourites. From its very first pages to the last heartwarming words, it's captivated my interest and remained a staple of my library for over ten years. Of course, I have my other favourites, but nothing has ever captured my interest in quite the way that Jane Eyre did.
The edition I have was printed by Scholastic Classics, so first impressions will differ from other readers. My cover is plain brown, with an elaborately scripted title and author name, which nevertheless does not detract from the overall outlook of the book. The cover image is of a young woman in a white dress, with her hair tumbling about her shoulders, carrying a candlestick and peering around a door in curiosity. This immediately sparks the reader's interest, since the initial question is "Is this Jane?", closely followed by intrigue as to what she's up to. The image is almost like an oil or acrylic painting, and lends an air of gravitas to the book.
The back cover is also plain brown, with three words at the top: "Mystery. Romance. Deception." This immediately sparks intrigue, since few words have ever been more powerful. They bring to mind images of a jealous lover, a quarrel, and even perhaps a death. The blurb is black text on a pale gold background, which is simple yet powerful, and doesn't give much away. Even the blurb itself is vague, unveiling just enough to keep the reader interested but not enough to give away all its secrets.
Jane Eyre tells the story of Jane, an orphan who goes to work at Thornfield mansion as a governess to Adele. When she catches the eye of her formidable employer, Mr Rochester, it seems that Jane might finally achieve her happy ending. However, Mr Rochester is hiding a secret that will not only threaten their fledgling romance, but force Jane to choose between her heart and her principles.
What I love about the plot is not only its simplicity — boy meets girl, they fall in love, obstacle comes along, happy endings all round — but also the gritty twist in the middle. I mean, who could imagine that Mr Rochester would have a wife still living? One can imagine him perhaps having a child, or even a destructive gambling habit, but not a wife still living! Of course, in that day and age it was a scandal to have a bigamous marriage, and to this day it's still illegal, but the twist that it brings is wonderful to read.
Naturally, the torment it brings Jane is also exquisitely crafted, from running away from Thornfield, to the doomed courtship of St John Rivers, and her return to Thornfield only to find Rochester blind. It keeps the reader hungering for more. Of course, a happy ending does ensue, which is a little bit clichéd, but it does tie all the ends up nicely. It's almost like a summer storm in a way - gorgeous sunny outlook followed by rain, lightning and thunder, and then finally the calm after the storm when it still smells like rain.
Who could help but love Jane? She's every girl's dream big sister — feisty, intelligent and fiercely loyal to those she loves. That being said, she does display a lot of naivety in the beginning of the book, probably because she is so desperate to be loved. However, this dissipates throughout the book and we see Jane grow from a naive young girl into a strong woman who can more than hold her own.
What I enjoy the most about Jane, and the reason that she is my favourite character, is that she never lets her heart rule her head. Even when it means losing the man she loves, she refuses to enter into a bigamous marriage and instead tells him to love his wife, who is as mad as a box of frogs! When Bertha eventually dies, it does free her up to marry Rochester, but she makes sure that he is well before entering into a marriage.
Rochester is also one of my favourite characters, mostly because he is just like my partner! Brooding, difficult to deal with, and stubborn as a mule, but ultimately a kind man with a loving heart. Sadly, he's a bit too used to having his own way, and doesn't appreciate Jane saying "no" to him, which is rather amusing at times. However, when Jane returns, he is unable to believe it and nearly pushes her away again, something that immediately causes the reader to panic. Thankfully, he's able to recognise her in time, and all is well. The best thing about Rochester is that even when he's blinded and all but incapacitated, he is still commanding and rugged — exactly as we remember him.
Writing style and overall impressions
Jane Eyre can be daunting when you first read it, namely because the language is so different from the style employed nowadays. However, once you get past it, the story is fantastic. The edition I have from Scholastic Classics does make the book a lot more accessible and does a grand job of keeping the reader's interest.
The description in the book is also excellent, inspiring passion and raw emotion in the reader, whilst still keeping the book, as a whole, grounded. Bronte's ability to evoke the wildness of Rochester and the fiery passion of Jane is tempered with the sensibility of Mrs Fairfax and the childishness of Adele, as well as the snootiness of Miss Ingram (who I think every girl comes to despise!) and the bad-tempered nature of Jane's aunt and cousins.
All in all, the book is well-rounded and should be a staple of everyone's library. It's one of those books that just transports you to another era and another time, when courtship was about more than Facebook statuses and problems were solved by talking rather than texting. And yes, that is the main reason I read it — not just because it's fantastic, but because it brings me back down to earth and reminds me that sometimes it's better to turn the computer off and try things another way.