The only thing I gained from my recent reading of Wide Sargasso Sea was a sudden urge to reread Jane Eyre, which I haven’t really thought about since I was 16. However, it is completely worth it and I doubt this review can do any justice to how I feel about this book. This is possibly the least objective post I have ever written, but I don’t really care. Just go read it!
Plot summary: As an orphan, Jane’s childhood is not an easy one buy her independance and strength of character keep her going through the miseries involved by cruel relatives and a brutal school. However, her biggest challenge is yet to come. Taking a job as a governess in a house full of secrets, for a passionate man she grows more and more attracted to, ultimately forces Jane to call on all her resources in order to hold on to her beliefs.
Who writes this crap? That’s taken word-for-word from the blurb and it’s horrendously inadequate. It’s grammatically incorrect for start, not to mention that it makes Jane Eyre sounds like the dullest most pious book on earth. Anyway.
I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked up Jane Eyre for the second time, but it definitely wasn’t what I got. The first time I read it, I liked it; this time, I was blown away. I was completely immersed, not just in the story, but in the world itself. I’m not usually a fan of over-descriptive books as they tend to slow down the story, but here it just kind of works. I could practically hear the fire crackle on the hearth and feel the snow chilling my ankles. And not just because England is under a foot of snow in the real world right now either.
Things actually happen in Jane Eyre, unlike a lot of books from the same era. Obviously I’d read it before and knew what was going to happen, but I still had to put the book down for about a week because I absolutely did not want to go through what was coming up and I eventually had to force myself to read it. It’s just so… real and I couldn’t bear the thought of that happening to Jane. Her indecision is masterful though. I wanted to shake her for making completely the wrong decision but it’s so wonderfully written.
I like Jane herself, which helps. She’s a nice, quiet, Victorian governess, but at the same time she’s very quick-witted and doesn’t take any crap. She’s easily one of the fullest characters in literature – both sides to her balance perfectly and result in a girl you can’t help rooting for her. Her conversations with Mr Rochester are what make this book so entertaining. The unexpected wit is actually very amusing at times.
Oh Mr Rochester. I’m not entirely sure I don’t prefer him to Mr Darcy actually, and we all know how I feel about Pride and Prejudice. He’s surly and moody but looks after Jane and treats her with respect even while she’s just his governess. He’s genuinely trying to improve himself and he’s just ohhhh. I think that’s part of the reason I disliked Wide Sargasso Sea so much – he just didn’t seem like the same person.
The love scenes are easily the most beautiful in all of classical (and modern) literature. Should I ever get married and decide to write my own vows they will be yanked straight from Jane Eyre (and don’t think I don’t know it defeats the purpose of writing your own vows) as this is the basis on which I would happily enter married life. I must have read it three times in succession and almost cried every time. I’m not big on romance, but it’s perfect.
If I had one complaint about Jane Eyre, it’s the time she spends with her cousins as it seems to drag on forever. Even Jane feels the need to say ‘Oh, I bet you thought I’d forgotten about Mr Rochester!’ because it takes such a long time to get back to him. I understand why that period of time is relevant and necessary, but it didn’t need to be quite so drawn out! Still it’s worth it as her return to Thornfield is the best three pages of English literature ever. I cried. I cried a lot.
I’m sorry for the gushing review. I just expected to slog through this book and maybe quite like it by the end, so it surprised me when I was absolutely blown away. It’s one of the most immersive books I’ve ever read. It took seconds to get back in to every time (even when I hadn’t touched it in a week) and once I had, the real world could have ceased to exist and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Please read this book, if you haven’t already. I swear it’s amazing.