As a child, I lost myself so completely in books that when I recollect reading, I don’t envision myself looking at the printed page. Instead I am taking a swan dive right into the open book as if into a deep pond. This was the case with Jane Eyre, which I read when I was about ten.
Jane’s childhood reads like a Dickens novel, complete with a ghost (depending on the reader’s willingness to believe). Orphaned Jane perseveres through injustice and physical abuse at the hands of her aunt and cousins, after which she is sent to an orphanage where she suffers more privation.
Years pass. Overcoming many obstacles thanks to her strength of character and a few benefactors along the way, Jane strikes out on her own. Here the story takes a decidedly gothic turn, with lightning strikes, fires, scary fortune tellers, nighttime journeys on strange dark roads, and danger lurking at the top of the stairs.
There is initial conflict between Jane and her employer, the famous Mr. Rochester who is, by the way, the perfect gothic hero – dark, strong, stern, and brooding. Conflict later gives way to love; then in a plot twist to rival any Gillian Flynn thriller, that love is betrayed. There follows abandonment, more perseverance, more tragedy, and an ending I won’t reveal in case you haven’t read the book. Trust me though, when I say that the last couple of chapters of the book will keep you turning the pages until the end.
Jane Eyre is a somber tale. There is no laughter (other than the taunting laughter that accompanies bullying), and very little unreserved joy. If it had been set in the present day I think the sadness and suffering would have been too much for ten-year-old me. As it takes place in the early 19th century though, and as some parts of the plot are too sensational to seem even remotely plausible, I could experience the story at a remove while maintaining my deep engagement.
There are several free Kindle editions of Jane Eyre available on Amazon; just search the Amazon Kindle Store with the title. There are also many movies made from this book – at least sixteen of them, in fact. I haven’t seen all of them, but I do love the 1944 version starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles, who was born to play Rochester. Click HERE to read about the 1944 movie.
If you would like to learn more about Charlotte Bronte and her sisters Emily and Anne, who were also authors, click HERE as a jumping-off point. This article has general information on the rest of the family as well.