Monday, July 25, 2016

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Read by: Anna Bentinck
Publisher: Dreamscape
Length: 23 hours and 7 minutes (19 discs)
Source: Review Copy from Audiobook Jukebox – Thanks!

Jane Eyre is a timeless tale that I find something new to intrigue me each time I reread it.  I’ve read the physical book several times through my life and have also listened to a couple different audiobook versions.  If you’ve never read it before, what are you waiting for?

Jane Eyre had a sad upbringing. Orphaned as an infant, she was brought home to be raised by her Uncle Reed and his family.  At his untimely death, Uncle Reed beseeched her Aunt to continue to care for Jane.  She did, but the care seemed to be only that she is feed and clothed, with no love entering into the mix.  She is continually reminded that she is a burden on the family and unloved.  She is punished when her young cousin, Jack, abuses her and she fights back.  She realizes she would be loved more if she had beauty, money, or a loving nature herself.   I found myself wondering, where do you learn to have a loving nature when you are treated with such unkindness?  I wondered where Bronte got the inspiration for the horrid children that were Jane’s young cousins.  Was she ever the governess to such children?

Her Aunt soon sends her to Lowood School.  Lowood School is a horrible place where children are treated unkindly and barely feed. I also love the realism of Jane’s time at Lowood School.  It’s disturbing to think that Charlotte Bronte had her own real life Lowood, a school in which her elder sisters were taken ill and died.  It gives the Helen Burns scene an entirely new dimension.  Jane graduates and becomes a teacher.  She sends out an advertisement for a governess position and soon receives one at Thornfield Hall

At Thornfield Hall, Jane is enchanted by her young charge Adele and friends with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax.  After a time working there, she finally meets the mysterious owner, Mr. Rochester.  The two strike up an unlikely friendship that soon leads to deeper feelings.

I have to wonder about Mr. Rochester.  Why is he all about mind games?  In particular, the scene where he dresses up as the old gypsy women and tells everyone their horoscopes.  He has Blanche at the house party and has been basically giving her hopes that she is being courted, but he tests her by tell her as the gypsy that he has no money.   He also continually keeps telling Jane that he is going to marry Blanche to see how she will react.  He basically is always testing Jane to see if she will do his bidding no matter what he asks.  When I read this as a teenager, I thought Mr. Rochester was so romantic, but now as a 38-year old I have my doubts.  I know Mr. Rochester does not want to marry someone that only wants him for his money, but he is a smart man and has already figured this out.  Why does he feel the need to play mind games and lead people on?

Jane and Mr. Rochester become engaged and are soon to be married, but a secret that Mr. Rochester has hidden literally in the attic comes out and destroys their chance at happiness.

The mad woman in the attic has become a cliché in society and novels, but it all started with Jane Eyre.  I’ve read The Wide Sargasso Sea and it gave me an entirely new perspective.  I still wonder about Bertha Rochester.  What was really wrong with her?  Could she have been helped at all in her mental woes?  Was the fact that she was locked in the attic part of why she was insane?  I always felt bad that Mr. Rochester couldn’t find companionship and love as he was saddled with a “mad” wife, but what about Bertha?  She was basically married off to Mr. Rochester because HE was the one marrying someone for their wealth.  When Bertha went insane, he locked her in the attic with a caretaker and then went off to France to have a dalliance with a French dancer and spend all of the money on fripperies for her.  Does anyone else wonder about Mr. Rochester?

Jane Eyre flees from Thornfield Hall and finds herself without money, friends, or home.  She collapse outside the home of a vicar and is taken in by him and his two sisters.  She gets her health back and becomes a school mistress.  After a surprising revelation, Jane Eyre finds herself an independent woman.  She also receives a proposal from the vicar, but can’t help but still think about Mr. Rochester.  Will these two star crossed lovers find a way to be together?

The novel goes to some lengths to describe both Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester as plain people that are not attractive.  It’s interesting that in most TV or feature films made of Jane Eyre, there are always very attractive people playing these parts.  Is there an “honest” Jane Eyre out there made with plain folks?

I loved listening to the audiobook.  It’s a great way to visit a novel that you love in a new format.  Anna Bentinck was a good narrator, although I will admit to being a little sad that she didn’t have a British accent.  She was easy to understand.

My favorite Jane Eyre quote,
“I am no bird; no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Overall, Jane Eyre is a classic novel not to be missed that is enhanced by listening to it via audiobook.  Have you read it?  Do you think it is a classic novel not to be missed?  What classic novel to do you think everyone should read?


  1. This book is referred to so often, I really do need to make the time to read it.

    1. I agree, it is referred to everywhere. Even when it's not directly referred to, elements of the story end up in so many current novels. I love this book, it's fun to read and also makes a great audiobook!

  2. You're right about Mr. R and the mind games. I never knew why he played with Jane the way he did. And spot on about Jane's and Mr. R's plainness. Casting directors are loath to cast plain people as heroes and heroines. My last reading of this book was an audio also and it worked beautifully.

    I read The Wide Sargasso Sea probably 40 years ago when I was in my teens--could do with a rereading! But, Bertha's side of the story really is heartbreaking.

    1. I agree! When I was a teenager, I didn't really give Bertha much thought, but I feel the older I get, the more I think about poor Bertha. It's hard to think about how many "Berthas" existed back in the day with mental problems their families did not understand or know what to do with. I agree - this makes an excellent audiobook!