I feel uncomfortable calling this a book review for a few different reasons. Mainly, I think that I would need to read through this book more than once to know it well enough to provide a proper review that I felt was honest to my exact feelings toward it. But I did want to share some thoughts and feelings about it after my first read.
If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a very brief (and pretty average) summary: Jane Eyre follows Jane from her childhood as an orphan living with her aunt and cousins to her time at Lowood boarding school to then her adult life where she becomes governess to a young French girl. She develops feelings for her employer, Edward Rochester, and their interactions become central to the story. You also learn about ‘the mad woman in the attic’ and various subplots that I won’t delve too deeply into. As I said, I think that I would have to do another read in order to be able to reflect adequately on all elements of the story. But here are my thoughts and feelings after reading it.
I wasn’t a fan of Jane and Rochester as a couple. It saddens me to say that because I went into the story expecting to really like both characters as I’ve heard that they are favourites within this genre. I just generally did not like Rochester as a character. I found him to be manipulative and condescending and I very much felt the age gap between him & Jane in the way that he spoke to her. He referred to her multiple times as an ‘alien’ and a ‘fairy’ as if she were some otherworldly creature, and that struck a strange chord for me. It felt as though he was never properly seeing her and even approaching their wedding he wanted her to wear a specific veil as if he wanted her to be a person that she wasn’t. His affection toward her always seemed like a strange curiosity/obsession rather than actual respect and love. I liked that she didn’t stand to be treated like this in some places, but I felt in other places throughout the story she allowed him to be ‘dominant’ and controlling. In this sense she seemed inconsistent as a character and I struggled to follow what she was actually feeling. I tried to understand their dynamic but I just didn’t feel it at all and therefore I wasn’t very invested in the central aspect of the story, which was their love.
Jane’s growth and development was interesting and I enjoyed the general plot of the story and following her life and the decisions that she makes. However, as I said above, I did find that she seemed quite inconsistent. In some places she was the ultimate feminist heroine that I was expecting and in others she disappointed me with her prejudices. I felt that she sometimes treated Mrs Fairfax (the housekeeper) and even Adele with quite a bit of disrespect and disdain which seemed unfair considering she herself knew what it was like to be in such a position. I also wanted to know more about the ‘madwoman in the attic’ because it felt as though a lot wasn’t explained and I didn’t think that the explanations that were made were really enough to justify locking her in the attic? This was another aspect of Rochester’s character that I didn’t enjoy, although I did appreciate that when interacting with her he was kind enough and he did try to save her life in the end.
These are just some thoughts I had after reading through. It all sounds very negative but I did read through the whole book (I’m very good at DNF-ing books if I’m not enjoying them), and I enjoyed the style of the novel. I also apologise if this is one of your favourites, it just didn’t sit right with me!