Thoughts

Thoughts #29: How I Came To Love Jane Eyre

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When I was sixteen, I had to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë for school, and at that point it didn’t make much of an impact on me. It wasn’t that I disliked the book, but it was always difficult to feel particularly passionate about anything we read in English class – we read books out loud together, and the teacher inevitably ended up picking the slowest reader to read to the rest of the class, which frustrated me. As well as this, many other people in my class just had no interest in books at all, and would muck around for the entire lesson, ruining it for others.

So seven years went by where I had read Jane Eyre, but had no particular strong feelings about it. That is, until I watched the 2011 film adaptation, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

Well hello there, Edward.

Well hello there, Edward.

The atmosphere of the film instantly gripped me. It was dark and Gothic, but also full of hope. Jane was not loved or well cared for as a child, and her teenage years were not particularly pleasant either, but she found joy in the small things like drawing and painting. Like many fellow readers as well as myself, she used fantasies to escape difficult times, painting whatever imagined worlds or creatures came into her head.

The gorgeous score, the wonderful, rugged landscapes, the palettes used, the perfectly cast characters (*COUGH*MICHAELFASSBENDER*COUGH*), the beautiful locations, the camerawork – everything just melded together to make this wonderful, heart-breaking film. And as many an avid reader knows, you’ve always got to read the book the film is based on!

So with that in mind, I dove back into Jane Eyre – and found myself falling utterly in love with it. I read the entire thing in a day, a lazy Sunday where literally all I did was read the book whilst listening to the soundtrack on repeat again and again. That was a good day.

So why do I love it so much? I feel like it transcends its time. At a time where women were meant to be meek, shy little things, Jane stands up for herself. From her aunt mistreating her when she was a little girl, to her time at Lowood School, and finally her time at Thornfield Hall as a governess, she is not afraid to speak her mind and act accordingly. Although Jane finds herself falling in love with Mr. Rochester, despite his apparent indifference, bluntness and more than occasional rudeness, she respects herself too much to let anything happen. And this beautiful, beautiful quote from Jane herself:

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”

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This is a book where our main character recognises that she is plain, but she doesn’t dwell on it – because she knows what matters is how you treat others, how kind, honest and loyal a person is. She recognises those qualities in Mr. Rochester, and proclaims them equals (he is described as not being traditionally handsome), despite his wealth. But what I most admire about Jane is how much respect she has for herself. She may be very much in love with Mr. Rochester, but as soon as she finds out about the ol’ wife in the attic situation she is out of there. She knows that living as his mistress will not be good for her and will always play on her conscience, so she leaves, even though it breaks her heart. She is brave, she is good, and she is ultimately one of the best female role models in fiction for the very reason that she doesn’t make a man one of her sole purposes of being. He has to respect her before he can have her.

She may go back to him in the end, after the situation is er, ‘sorted’, but by this point he has also made his sacrifices. I’m not usually bothered about romance in stories, in fact half the time I feel it gets in the way, but my gosh do I love Jane and Mr. Rochester together. The ending of Jane Eyre makes me bawl and I’m not ashamed to admit it. These two lost souls have finally found each other, and it makes me so happy.

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Have you read Jane Eyre, or seen any of the film adaptations? What did you think?

Review

Review: Ironskin (Ironskin #1) by Tina Connolly

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I recently re-read Jane Eyre for the first time since school, and it was like reading a completely new book. Without the need to analyse every scene, I was completely and utterly wrapped up in this world, following Jane’s story and heartbreak. I couldn’t get enough of it: I read the book in two days, I watched the Mia Wasikowska/Michael Fassbender film adaptation twice in those same two days, and listened to the soundtrack of said film on repeat endlessly. And that was when I remembered: I had this book on my Kindle, a paranormal retelling of Jane Eyre.

So it was with great excitement that I dove into Ironskin, hoping to rediscover some of those feelings and familiar moments. And whilst Ironskin is a retelling, it doesn’t stick quite so closely to original events as you’d think, and Tina Connolly plays really cleverly on Brontë’s work. In Jane Eliot’s world, fairies and other creatures such as dwarves are real – but fairies are most definitely not the cutesy little magical beings we know from fairytales. Five years previously, there was a Great War between the fairies and humans, and many people were killed or injured. Those injured by the fairies become cursed – Jane’s particular curse is rage – and she must wear a mask of iron to keep the rage in.

Whilst Jane is not a penniless orphan, as the original Jane is, she is an outcast in her own way. She is Ironskin, which immediately pushes her to the edge of society. She has a younger sister who is the total opposite – where Jane is plain, quiet, conservative but also strong-willed, Helen is outgoing, fun-loving and very much determined to integrate herself into high society. She is a representation of how important these people perceive appearance to be. There was definitely much more of a focus on Jane’s appearance in this book – in the original Jane Eyre she is occasionally referred to as being rather plain, but Brontë doesn’t dwell on it. However, in this one, Jane becomes a little fixated on her appearance and there were a couple of moments where it felt like she’d moved on from being this sharp, witty and fiercely independent character, to someone more like her sister.

Rochart was a lot less fickle and mysterious than Mr. Rochester. It was obvious that he had feelings for Jane, he wasn’t constantly pulling away which I felt left a lot to be desired with the romance. There just wasn’t very much chemistry between the two – why is Jane interested in him? Because he’s the only male she knows? I also didn’t understand how she was so surprised by his ‘big reveal’, when half the book had pretty much given it away. Hint: it’s not a mad wife in the attic. The ending also felt a bit… lacklustre. Although it was a big event with lots of action, there was just something missing.

However, I really did enjoy this book. It may follow the events of Jane Eyre and take plenty of inspiration from it, but it’s also very much its own story. I guess it’s a big task to try and live up to the original book, but Connolly gets close. There were plenty of little references in the story – like the room where Rochart and Jane meet is the ‘red room’, and when Jane has to go away for her sister’s wedding Rochart says he was expecting a ‘madeup story about a dying aunt’. My favourite thing however, was how in the original book, Mr. Rochester is constantly referring to Jane as an imp or a fairy, and when she meets him outside Thornfield he asks if she was ‘waiting for her people’. This took that idea and expanded on it hugely – to great success.