Review: Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) by Charlotte Brontë

November 28, 2007

Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) by Charlotte Brontë

Funny how a book written 160 years ago can be this eyebrow-raising. I actually found myself saying to myself (almost out loud): “Oh no she didn’t” and “She slept where?!” and “He said what?!” Compared to Austen (who, granted, wrote 40 years earlier), which I’ve been reading lots of lately, this is raunchy stuff.

It’s also remarkably plot-driven, much to my relief. And the plot (again to compare to Jane Austen) broaches the boundaries of mere courtships and the quotidian. A few true twists happen. There are indeed still long passages of description (enjoyable, still) and religious reflection (less enjoyable to me), but mostly, we’re talking page-turner here.

In true Victorian literature fashion, expect some improbable coincidences and melodrama. But what Brontë excels at here–I mean really excels!–is character development. Some of the dialog in Jane Eyre is so good it’s obvious that no one would ever actually SAY that, but it’s still so good. Brontë manages to make middle-aged Rochester kind of hot, and then there’s the surprisingly full-sketched figure of St. John Rivers.

All in all, I can say this wasn’t what I expected, and mostly in a good way. Having read Dickens, Thackeray (contemporaries) and Austen (earlier) this year, Brontë really stood out on her own, with a strong, engaging style. ( )