I can still remember my first encounter with Jane Eyre. It wasn't with the book, it was with the 1983 BBC miniseries starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton. My mom got it from the library when I was probably thirteen or fourteen, and we watched it together. I fell in love. With the story, with Jane, with Rochester, the whole shebang. I didn't read the book until I was a few years older, but when I did, it quickly rose to the ranks of my favorite books. A couple of years ago, I realized that it had at last eclipsed the book that had long held the #1 spot in my affections, and become my absolute favorite book.
I've read the whole book six or seven times, but there are some chapters I've read far, far more often than that. Sometimes I dip in for a visit when I need a pick-me-up; other times, I've skimmed the beginning and much of the later part, and just relished my favorite sections.
What is it about this melodramatic, implausible, highly emotional story that draws me so fiercely? The plot -- poor girl becomes a governess, falls in love with her employer, flees from him when she learns his secret, finds new friends, returns to her one true love when he is free -- is basically a Cinderella retelling, and while I'm very drawn to Cinderella stories, there aren't any others that have earned this level of devotion from me.
When I was a teen, and into my twenties, I would have said I loved this book because I loved Mr. Rochester. And he's still a huge part of my affection for this story, no question. When it comes to movie adaptations, it's Rochester who makes or breaks them for me -- I will put up with a less-than-great Jane, but if Rochester feels off to me, I'm going to dislike the entire production. But I realized, when I reread the entire book around the age of 30, that it's Jane herself that makes me love this book.
Jane Eyre, outwardly plain and powerless, is inwardly a pillar of strength. That juxtaposition of one's outer and inner selves fascinates me, and Jane's absolute resolution fills me with awe. Leading this read-along has confirmed my admiration of her.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for discussions of Rochester's possible fathering of an illegitimate child, scary situations, and cruel treatment of a child.
I'm not going to share favorite lines here today, as I've shared them already in individual chapter posts. I just wanted to share these final thoughts on this book, especially since it is my 50th book read and reviewed for The Classics Club!!! I have finished the challenge I set for myself at the beginning of 2014 -- I wanted to read 50 classics in 5 years, and I accomplished that in slightly less than 3. More about that in another post.
This was also the 18th book I've read and reviewed for the Women's Classic Literature Event. I'm aiming for 20 by the end of the year, so here's hoping I can finish reading two more classics written by women in the next 6 weeks!