I’m currently reading Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, for the first time (yes, it was assigned reading in high school, but I must admit to never reading it then). I’ve recently come to own the novel in this volume, which is absolutely beautiful:
It also contains work from two of Charlotte’s sisters, Anne (Agnes Grey), and Emily (Wuthering Heights). It’s a volume in the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics Series, which you can see more here. Before I received this in the mail, however, I had checked out a copy in audiobook format from the library to listen to after finishing The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This version is narrated by Josephine Bailey, who I am enjoying very much.
Nothing I have read before really compares to Jane Eyre. To tell the truth, I’ve never been able to read the type of writing style contained in these pages. Each sentence is stretched and embellished with nearly as many words as is possible to use within it, and at times it is hard to discern the meaning of the whole thing together by the end of it. Until I got this novel on audio cd, I just couldn’t deal with that style. I thought it much too flowery and needless. I had a misconception that all of the characters were washed out, a little out of focus, and had cares and motivations that could never interest me. Just the thought of the time period most novels in this genre are set in made me roll my eyes or cringe. I couldn’t understand why people loved them so much. What could there possibly be to like??
I had a long drive by myself last Saturday, and decided to start listen to the audiobook then. I didn’t really understand what was going on at the beginning, but I just kept it on as I drove, and that was the trick. Once I saw the plot and characters developing, it was easier to listen to, but I was still hardly interested, and I made fun of the style of writing and vocabulary to myself as it went on. I didn’t really start to care about Miss Jane Eyre until about the forth disc, when she was at Lowood school and met Helen Burns. The story changed for me then, to something melancholy and beautiful.
As of right now, I have just started Volume Two (disc 8) and I am entranced by this book. I am not sure what happened, or exactly when, but this is possibly one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Once I got past the ‘strange’ way of writing, I completely fell in love with it. It’s exactly opposite of a book like Robert Louis Stevensen’s Treasure Island, where there is constant action and plot advancement. Jane Eyre takes its time. It reveals itself slowly and delicately. It’s like to watching a flower bloom, the story builds and builds into something complex and very beautiful. There are sub-plot mysteries, characters to love and some to hate, and locations have names and are described in detail…this is a book you could read again and again forever. This book has changed the way I think about literature.
I’ve been almost craving to read more of this book, and yet I almost don’t want to, because I’m not sure I want it to end. This is going to be a book that I remember forever, for reasons listed above, and I already know its going to be one of those I wish I could read again for the first time (a feeling reserved for only the greatest plot woven stories).
For all of you out there who have stood up to your love of this book and others similar, no matter how many have scoffed at you or thought you crazy – good for you, I finally realize that it is truly deserved. I’m converted!