Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I felt like I, probably, read this book in high school. I’m sure that I have never seen a movie adaptation, but some elements of plot seemed familiar. Almost anything that I read in the 80’s is, almost, completely new to me if I pick it now. I don’t think that I would have enjoyed this book as a young adult. I didn’t know enough about literature to recognize Jane Eyre as an impeccable rendition of a gothic/romantic novel, and I didn’t know enough about history appreciate how forward thinking Brontё was on the issues of sexism, poverty, religion, and class. My tastes are evolving, too. I’ve always liked books filled with action and adventure, but, now, I, also, crave exceptional writing. Brontё doesn’t dazzle you with symbolism and allegories you can’t understand. Jane Eyre is very accessible, yet the writing is clear and sophisticated.
One of the things that make this book special is Jane’s character. A bildungsroman, which this book is, can only be successful if you enjoy the main character. Jane is likeable, both as a child and young adult. She is every woman, fighting to find and defend herself in a hostile world.
Brontё may have been forward thinking about many things, but she didn’t appear to be so on issues of race. She seems to almost have an obsession with white skin. Every person’s skin color was described, paying special attention to the darkness versus lightness, dark clearly being the inferior. There were a couple of times in the book when Jane made disparaging analogies about Jews, as well. There were also references to phrenology. Brontё( like all of us) was part of the society in which she lived and not immune to its influences.
I enjoyed this book a great deal. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, but I think it would appeal especially to women.
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