Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Pub. Date: 16th October 1847
Publisher: Smith, Elder & Co.
Readership: Adult fiction
Genres: Gothic
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #8
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Hardback
More: Goodreads

Please note that this review may contain spoilers!

Synopsis from Goodreads: Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester. The loneliness and cruelty of Jane’s childhood strengthens her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice.

I chose Jane Eyre to be my eighth classic (I know, I’m a little behind!) for two reasons: 1) I watched the adaptation last Christmas and, unexpectedly, really enjoyed it. Reading Rebecca earlier in the year also gave me confidence to finally pick it up. 2) I wanted to read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, but thought I may miss certain references, and so not appreciate it fully, if I haven’t read the book.

I hadn’t really planned on picking up Jane Eyre when I began the challenge, but I’m so incredibly glad I did. I’m constantly surprised at how readable and accessible the classics I’ve been reading are; it has certainly changed my perception of them. If you’ve been following me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I’ve been raving about this book and exclaiming how surprised I was to be enjoying it.

I separated the novel into three parts: Jane’s childhood, her time at Thornfield Hall, and ‘after’. I really loved the first two parts of the novel: finding out who Jane is, how her unhappy childhood and neglect shaped her, key incidents in her life that she’ll never forget, and then those people who showed rare kindness.

Jane Eyre is a fantastic character – independent, honest, blunt and dignified. Even though the book was written over 160 years ago, and I’d expect women to be complacent and submissive (and for men to treat them that way), Jane is anything but. (‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.’). I was rooting for her all the way, yet devastating things kept happening to her, and I wondered if she’d ever get to be happy. Mr Rochester is also one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in a novel. I’m not sure if I ever really liked him — he is complicated, moody and sometimes patronising and belittling — but I found him utterly fascinating. I enjoyed his witty, quick banter with Jane! The unconventional romance between them was also enjoyable, even though I knew what was coming. In one way, Jane Eyre is a simple, straightforward story but in other ways it’s completely mad and dramatic. I think this contrast was why I was so absorbed and fixated with the story.

The beautiful, magnificent writing was also one of my favourite things about Jane Eyre. It’s just perfect; so eloquent yet not overdone (‘Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education’). I admired the characters and their superior vocabulary, and the way that Jane addresses the reader. It’s so different — more complex — from the writing style I usually come across, but so easy to read, something I’m constantly surprised to encounter.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the ‘after’ as much as I had expected to. I’m not sure whether it was because I had been reading the book for longer than I usually would and it started to make me fidgety, or whether I just didn’t find the situation as interesting, but it drew me back towards the end. It’s the reason why I couldn’t give the book the full five star ‘I loved it’ rating, although I desperately wanted to. I’m hoping that I’ll appreciate it more when I re-read it someday, and it has still made it to my ‘favourites’.

Jane Eyre was a surprising novel to me in every way and I adored it. I have now added the latest adaptation to my Christmas list, as I’d love to watch it again, and look forward to reading Villette!

31 thoughts on “Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

  1. See?! Isn’t it beautiful? I agree, the last third is frustrating, but it’s all to show Jane that she does have family and wealth but these are not essential for a happy life: love is. I’m so happy to hear that you liked it!! Vilette is similar, and the other Bronte sisters have a writing style like Charlotte’s (albeit slightly different views of life and love, what is real and what is fantastical).

  2. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics. I hope you get a chance to read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. That’s also a really great book. Very different when you consider when it was published.

  3. This one of my most favourite book. I am so glad you enjoyed it, I loved the character of Jane and her outlook on life.

  4. This is the next book Im going to read. How do I follow you on goodreads?

  5. Oh this has to be my favouritest book ever, I’m pretty sure of it! One of the few books that I’ve read over and over again 🙂

  6. Good review. I felt similarly to you about Rochester, he’s such a great character, and Jane remains strong throughout. I have to agree with your feelings about what you’ve called the third part. It’s not bad, but it does take you out of the story and is rather long.

    • Yeah, I think that’s it. I didn’t want to be taken out of the story, and I don’t remember that part of the book taking up a huge part of the adaptation so I was surprised.

  7. […] have to give credit to The Eyre Affair: Jane Eyre is now one of my favourite novels and I picked it up because I didn’t know how much would be […]

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  13. This is one of my favorite books. I agree with you about Jane staying strong. Every time I read this book it restores a little of my faith in people. She does what she believes is right even though it completely breaks her heart. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I have read this book. Someone you didn’t mention though was Helen. She was always one of my favorite characters even though she’s only in the story for a short time. What is your opinion of her and how her influence shapes Jane?

  14. a classic book that remains a must-read to this day!

  15. […] Reading Regret: I read a lot as a child and as a teenager, but I regret not reading more. I wish I had read more children’s books because I don’t think I can appreciate them – or will ever appreciate them – as much as if I had read them when I was really young. I also wish I’d not been so afraid of classics because they’re not so bad after all, like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. […]

  16. I’ve read Villette! It’s different from Jane Eyre and made me cry — but it is perhaps even better. I’m currently rereading Jane Eyre. 🙂

  17. I’ve been fascinated by the novel Jane Eyre since I first read it as a teenager. Years later I read the “prequel” Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys which is the story of Bertha Mason, the first Mrs. Rochester, set in Jamaica and Thornfield, written in 1966. Since that moment I’ve wanted to write the sequel to both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea because by reading them as complimentary texts I appreciated that there was a whole new untold story to be unfolded; a story in which Jane and Bertha meet again to reveal the real Edward Rochester. Well, the story has been in my mind for years and I’ve finally written it. At the moment I’m uploading it free on Wattpad in chapters (there are 11 up already and 19 to go will be uploading shortly at various chapters each week). Although it is a completed text I would love to get feedback. There is potential for more sequels which take the story of the Rochester siblings into the 20th century.

  18. I really enjoyed reading this novel. Jane is an Orphan that is living with her terrible aunt and then is foist off and starts school in lowood. Even tough she lived through reject , she becomes a very well learned woman. Then she sets out to begin her life. Jane finds love and loses love, destitution, charity, loneliness, family, and most important of all self actualization. This novel was challenging and rewarding. It is beautifully written. It’s rich because of the beautiful descriptions and many literary allusions. Jane herself is a very engaging character. Jane was the perfect Heroine – strong, moral, not afraid to give her opinion, and with a kind heart. Rochester was perfect for her. The perfect hero – strong, flawed, and tortured. They had chemistry and struck sparks off of each other from the beginning and it never let up. Overall, it’s a great story of love and faith. Bronte gives great descriptions of everything going on mentally and physically around Jane Eyre throughout her life. I would highly recommend it to any reader, especially ones interested in the time Era that it was written… – Saily.

  19. this novel is a beautiful mixture of simplicity and seriousness.i have before me an example of a brilliant yet simple prose with a philosophical and solemn touch.finally,I conclude that the present novel has the theme of love.

  20. […] it, but it kept cropping up while I was looking up Gothic literature, after thoroughly enjoying Jane Eyre. Appropriately, I’d visited the British Museum’s exhibition on Gothic literature […]

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