Jane Eyre

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genres: Fiction, Classics
Pub. Date: 1847 (read Mar. 2021)

This was a re-read for me. I first read Jane Eyre about 10 years ago and I didn’t love it – I think I gave it 3 stars – but I remember expecting to really like it because it’s a lot of people’s favourite classic, and then just not being into it at all.

I’ve had a lot of success with classics lately. I finished reading all of Jane Austen’s books over Christmas and was a huge fan, and I read Wuthering Heights a few years ago and absolutely LOVED it! So I thought it might be time to re-visit Jane Eyre and see if I would finally jump on the bandwagon.

I can’t talk about the book without revealing spoilers, so if you still haven’t read this one – SPOILER ALERT AHEAD.

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Reader, I definitely liked this better the second time around. I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book about Jane’s childhood and the definite highlight of the book for me was when Jane makes the decision to leave Mr. Rochester and basically destitute herself on principal (like come on, she could have still left him and taken a bit of money with her, there’s morality and then there’s just insanity). I had forgotten a lot of the plot points of the book, so after re-reading it… I get it. I understand why this is beloved by so many people. Jane really is a true heroine and so far ahead of her time. Despite a very difficult childhood, she grows into a very well adjusted young woman who is both loving and kind. She is quiet and timid, but she is not meek. She has developed a very acute sense of self and ideals of morality. In short, she is very high in character.

Like the many readers that have come before me, I did admire her for her grit. She has finally found what she most desires in the world, love and a home, and she walks away from all of that so as not to diminish herself or live in a way that she feels is not right. She faces more hardships only to again rise from the ashes of her former life to build a new one for herself. It’s really hard to believe this book is from the 1840’s because it really is filled with so many modern ideals and I admire Charlotte Bronte for penning this in her time!

So why I am not as enamoured with this book as everyone else seems to be? It’s definitely a dense book – I listened to it on audio and there are multiple HOUR LONG monologues by some of the characters. I do think it was a good choice to rely heavily on dialogue for these and even though they were long, they did still hold my attention, but like, good riddance on all the philosophical conversations.

Honestly, what I think it comes down to for me is a bit of the ick factor. Like, I know there are women out there in love with Mr. Rochester and I find it so creepy. He’s so large and old and menacing – I just couldn’t move beyond a 40 year old man preying on a 19 year old girl. I know Jane Austen’s books are filled with age gaps too and I love those, so I shouldn’t judge because it was 1847, but the whole power dynamic and Mr. Rochester’s temper were just too much. Then the fact that he tries to wed Jane while already secretly married and the whole F-ed up idea of shutting someone up in the attic for literal years and THEN JUSTIFYING IT. And the reader is actually expected to empathize with Mr. Rochester’s plight when poor Bertha’s been suffering away up there?! So I think it’s a bit ahead of its time in some ways and other ways definitely right in its time period.

Personally I got more of a kick out of the whole ordeal with St. John. I found this escapade a bit more light hearted and loved Jane using sarcasm against his faith near the end of the novel. I did think the book had a good blend of religion and morality. Sometime classics can be a bit heavy on the religion, which to an extent this was, but I liked that even though Jane did believe in God, I felt that she had developed a strong sense of personal morals outside of religion. St. John started to manipulate his religion at the end to get Jane to marry him because he felt it was ordained by God, but Jane very firmly held her own ground and recognized that thinking something might be good for your ministry doesn’t necessarily mean it will be good for you.

So how to rate this? I’m on the fence because Jane really is a first rate heroine, but I felt so uncomfortable reading about the romance. It’s funny to me that I adore Wuthering Heights, which honestly has zero likeable characters, yet I struggle with Jane Eyre, which has a truly lovable protagonist. I’m probably at a 3.5 stars, but I will round up to 4 stars because the second read through did allow me to recognize the value in this book and I understand now why it has survived the test of time. I’d just take Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy over Jane and Mr. Rochester every day of the week folks! So in conclusion, a worthy classic, but not my favourite.

Side note, why do so many people hate Wuthering Heights? I think it’s like the pinnacle of classic literature and I love everything about it, but so many people really dislike it. Give those unlikable characters a chance readers and see what you can learn from them! Also, the audiobook I read was narrated by Thandie Newton, who did a GREAT job! But she pronounces St. John like SinJin and it was really confusing for me at first.

My Plain Jane

Rating: 
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pub date: June 26, 2018 (read July 2018)

I was really expecting to like this a lot more than I did. I don’t know if I just had too high expectations after My Lady Jane, but My Plain Jane just didn’t seem to have quite the same flair as it’s predecessor.

If you haven’t heard of this book, it’s the second book in The Lady Janies series, although they are all standalone books, so you don’t have to read them in order. They are authored by 3 YA authors and are basically historical and fantastical retellings of Janes throughout history. The first book was about Lady Jane Grey, who was known as the 9 days queen since she ruled England for only 9 days before losing her head. My Plain Jane is essentially a retelling of Jane Eyre, but with Charlotte Bronte re-imagined as one of the characters in the story (or rather, re-imagining the cast of Jane Eyre as real people that Bronte interacted with and inspired her classic novel).

Most importantly, these books are full of hi-jinx and hilarity where the authors frequently directly address the reader. Lady Jane Grey was really funny and a ton of fun to read (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is another book of very similar style), but while I chucked at parts of My Plain Jane, it just wasn’t quite as engaging for me. The first half of the novel pretty much just seemed to be a re-telling of Jane Eyre, with a few ghosts thrown in, but it wasn’t until the second half of the novel that I felt the authors finally started switching things up a bit and the plot got more interesting. There’s a lot of build up to not a whole lot of action.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this and I will definitely be returning for the third and final book, but this definitely couldn’t compare to My Lady Jane in my opinion. There were a lot of fun pop culture references thrown in here though that I did enjoy. The only problem is you kind of need to have read Jane Eyre to catch on to some of the jokes. I think there were a bunch of jokes in reference to other classic works as well, but I didn’t pick up on a lot of them, I did appreciate them whenever I did catch on though.

So not a big winner, but a solid 3 stars. I still got a few laughs out of this and it was nice to pick up something so lighthearted.