Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Jane Eyre

I have no idea who J. Swartz is, but I love this quote: "Most books, like their authors, are born to die; of only a few books can it be said that death hath no dominion over them; they live, and their influence lives forever." Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre is, I firmly believe, one of those books that lives forever. I've recently had the pleasure of teaching Jane Eyre to my class of high schoolers, thus getting to read it again for probably the fifth time. I read it first in high school, again in college twice, and probably at least once since college. I wrote a fantastic paper on Jane Eyre once in college and was wishing I could have located it as I taught the class this past month. (Where is that box of college notebooks and papers, anyway? Harumph.)

About half of my students started out very resistant to reading Jane Eyre for whatever reason—a couple had read it before and disliked it, one or two just like to be ornery for the sake of being ornery. They started to come around a little in the first half of the book, and I'm happy to say that at the end, nearly all of them really enjoyed it.

So what makes Jane Eyre such a compelling read? I think that Brontë brilliantly combined a variety of techniques: Gothic horror and mystery, a tragic romance, a rags-to-riches story, and a dose of religious criticism (faith vs. hypocrisy). It's a smart book, and Jane is a smart character. There's not one bit of fluff about her, and we readers want Jane Eyre to succeed. There is something timeless about Jane, something that 17-year-olds and 40-year-olds and 80-year-olds today can still relate to,
regardless of gender.

We watched part of the Masterpiece Theatre version of Jane Eyre, and it is excellent. Class time did not allow us to watch the entire show, but my students begged for a movie night in the summer so that we can watch the whole thing.

I've been surprised at them number of adults I've encountered in the past month who have never read Jane Eyre. I thought everyone had read it in school. (I know. I reek of naivete.) I assume everyone knows the love story of plain Jane and ugly Rochester and the—well, no. I won't say it, because perhaps some of you out there have yet to read this classic. Please do.

And aside from the novel itself, here's another reason why I love Jane Eyre.

Other Reviews of Jane Eyre
Becky's Book Reviews
Pages of the Mind
Violet Crush
The Book Lady's Blog
She Reads Books
Lanier's Books


Leah C said...

Jane Eyre is one of my most favorite books of all time. In high school, I read it at least every other month. :-) My daughter has read an abridged version, but I think it is time for her to read the "real" one!

Josette said...

Hi! Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics too. I admire the main character and am always rooting for Jane and Mr Rochester to be together! :)

Here is my review of the book.