It's hard to imagine a better gothic romance than "Jane Eyre" -- gloomy vast houses, mysterious secrets, and a brooding haunted man with a dark past.
In fact, Charlotte Bronte's classic novel has pretty much everything going for it -- beautiful settings, a passionate romance tempered by iron-clad morals, and a heroine whose poverty and lack of beauty only let her brains and courage shine brighter. And it's all wrapped in the misty, haunting atmosphere of a true gothic story -- madwoman in the attic and all.
Jane Eyre was an orphan, abused and neglected first by relatives, then by a boarding school run by a tyrannical, hypocritical minister. But Jane refuses to let anyone shove her down -- even when her saintly best friend dies from the wretched conditions.
But many years later, Jane moves on by applying to Thornfield Hall for a governess position, and gets the job. She soon becomes the teacher and friend to the sprightly French girl Adele, but is struck by the dark, almost haunted feeling of her new home.
Then she runs into a rather surly horseman -- who turns out to be her employer, Mr. Rochester, a cynical, embittered man who spends little time at Thornfield. They are slowly drawn together into a powerful love, despite their different social stations -- and Rochester's apparent attentions to a shallow, snotty aristocrat who wants his wealth and status.
But strange things are happening at Thornfield -- stabbings, fires, and mysterious laughter. Jane and Rochester finally confess their feelings to each other, but their wedding is interrupted when Rochester's dark past comes to light. Jane flees into the arms of long-lost family members, and is offered a new life -- but her love for Rochester is not so easily forgotten...
"Jane Eyre" is one of those books that transcends the labels of genre. Charlotte Bronte spun a haunting gothic romance around her semi-autobiographical heroine and Byronic anti-hero, filling it with brilliant writing and solid plot. It has everything all the other gothic romances of the time had... but Bronte gave it depth and intensity without resorting to melodrama.
Bronte wrote in the usual stately prose of the time, but it has a sensual, lush quality, even in the dank early chapters at Lowood. At Thornfield, the book acquires an overhanging atmosphere of foreboding, until the clouds clear near the end. And she wove some tough questions into Jane's perspective -- that of a woman's independence and strength in a man's world, of extreme religion, and of the clash between morals and passion.
And Bronte also avoided any tinges of drippy sentimentality (Mrs. Reed dies still spewing venom) while injecting some hauntingly nightmarish moments ("She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart"). She even manages to include some funny stuff, such as Rochester disguising himself as an old gypsy woman.
The story does slow down after the abortive wedding, when Jane flees Thornfield and briefly considers marrying a repressed clergyman who wants to go die preaching in India. It's rather boring to hear the self-consciously saintly St. John prattling about himself, instead of Rochester's barbed wit. But when Jane departs again, the plot speeds up into a nice, mellow little finale.
Bronte did a brilliant job of bringing her heroine to life -- as a defiant little girl who is condemned for being "passionate," as an independent young lady, and as a woman torn between love and principle. Jane's strong personality and wits overwhelm the basic fact that she's not unusually pretty. And Rochester is a brilliantly sexy Byronic anti-hero with a prickly, mercurial wit.
Of Charlotte Bronte's few novels, "Jane Eyre" is undoubtedly the most brilliant -- passionate, dark and hauntingly eerie. Definitely a must-read.
Wuthering Heights is a surprisingly modern novel given that its authorship predates our modern understanding of psychology. Like many modern novels, Ms. Bronte has also explored the darker side of human passions and psyches more thoroughly than the sunnier side. Heathcliff will remind you of classic characters whose lives were twisted by fate like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Erik in Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and the mysterious prisoner in The Man in the Iron Mask.
If there were ever two star-crossed lovers who have captured the world's imagination since Romeo and Juliet, they must be Catherine and Heathcliff. Yet, unlike, many such pairs, their unhappiness is heavily influenced by themselves.
As you contemplate their story, you are constantly drawn to the thought, "what if" thus and such had occurred differently? That's part of the great power of the story because it has so many unexpected twistings and turnings. A reader's expectations from a love story are turned upside down, sideways and diagonal from where those expectations normally rest. As a result, you'll probably decide this isn't a love story after all . . . but a tragedy. Taken from that perspective, you'll find yourself hearing echoes of Lady Macbeth and King Lear as you contemplate what occurs when the natural order is disturbed. Few English authors since Shakespeare have captured that sense of what can happen when the universe is disarranged.
What's great about this story? It's pretty simple: Emotional intensity in the writing; deeply memorable characters; doomed lovers; and a haunting glimpse at unshakeable obsession.
What's not so great? The story development itself is pretty awkward. Much of the story is told in flashback which steals power and immediacy from the narration. If ever a story cried out for being told in the first person (by Heathcliff, Catherine, Edgar Linton, Hareton and young Catherine), it's Wuthering Heights. The transitions from one key moment to another are often very abrupt. Sometimes it is 150 pages later before you get the full sense of what Emily Bronte meant to convey in some of those transitions.
What's less than great? The characters aren't nearly as appealing as those you'll usually find in a novel dealing with these issues. In that sense, the novel is more realistic than fictional . . . which helps create some of its immense power. It's probably a worthwhile price to pay.
Whatever you think of Wuthering Heights, you owe it to yourself to read one of the most moving tales that has ever been written. Pick a time when you're feeling reasonably happy to start the book. Otherwise, you may find your mood to be more than a little darkened for a few days.
on January 10, 2008
What a great experience to finally reread this classic as an adult. Emily Bronte depicts a very gothic and depressing story of two star-crossed (but not terribly likeable) lovers, Cathy & Heathcliff, and the love between them that transcended the grave. Added to that a wonderful depiction of the dark English moors and the local characters with their strange dialects. This was also told in a very unusual style, like a tale within a tale within a tale, adding more layers and perspectives to the story.
How unfortunate that one's upbringing can so affect a person that their grief and bitterness turn what could have been a fine young man into such a hateful and vengeful person as Heathcliff became. And fortunate that Cathy's daughter and Hareton could overcome their dark upbringing to bring a happier light onto the dark moors of England.
I did not read this version of the book, but the Selected Works of the Bronte Sisters, which did not have all the footnotes. I think I enjoyed that better as I wasn't constantly distracted by looking to the back for the notes and just allowed myself to become engrossed with the story. It's one book you have to read at least twice in your life -- of course in school as required reading and then again as an adult to add that perspective of age and experience in life so that one can more fully appreciate a such a classic tale.
on July 14, 2008
Please do not listen to the reviewer who said this book has no plot. It is a story of emotions, hardship, women's rights, madness, intense love and intrigue. There are many twists and turns - and lots of conflict and pain to come to terms with. It will make you laugh out loud and cry. Maybe the previous reviewer was too young to understand and was disappointed that Jane Eyre wasn't like the plot of 'The OC' or something... If you are looking for a mature and engrossing tale, this is the one. Charlotte Bronte was the most awesome writer and her style never fails to draw in the reader from the first page.
on May 28, 2010
Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' has pretty much everything going for it - beautiful settings, a passionate romance tempered by iron-clad morals, and a heroine whose poverty and lack of beauty only let her brains and courage shine brighter. And it's all wrapped in the misty, haunting atmosphere of a true gothic story - madwoman in the attic and all.
A timeless classic - I only wish she had written a sequel! Other books I'd recommend although very different are:
Godstone - The Kairos Boxes
on April 25, 2004
Wuthering Heights is on of the greatest classics in literature and one I had never read until recently. I found this story of obsessive and destructive relationships very compelling and difficult to put down. It's a romance but by no means is it a happy one. Things don't go well for these people.
Wuthering Heights is the story of two families the Earnshaws and Lintons, who really should never had gotten together. It's the romance between Heathcliff and Catherine that underlies the whole book. Heathcliff is defiantly the ultimate anti-hero, he's obsessive, abusive and just plain evil, but still you feel yourself drawn into his dark world and hoping that redemption comes to him. He seems beyond it however and his destructive behaviour forms the basis of this gothic tale.
Emily Bronte's skills as a writer are amazing, her language is poetic and deep and the story is truly unique. My only criticism is concerning the way she wrote dialogue for the character Joseph, it's often illegible and I found it most difficult understanding what he was saying. That aside I really enjoyed this book and recommend it wholeheartedly as a study of human nature as it is without the influence of a Divine being.
Thanks for reading my review and enjoy this book.
on August 26, 2003
Not to be hyperbolic, but Wuthering Heights is one of the most well known and critically acclaimed novels in the English language, and there is precious little that I can add to the volumes already written on it. It is the story of two British households inhabiting the wilds of the Yorkshire moors, and illuminates the destructive undercurrents that come to uproot and ultimately destroy both clans. At the center of the tale stand the headstrong Catherine Earnshaw and the brooding Heathcliff, one of the most celebrated romantic pairings in world literature. Treated abominably in his youth at the hands of both households and having lost his love to another man, Heathcliff descends into a horrifying abyss of brutality and revenge still harrowing to encounter nearly two centuries after publication. Although the novel progresses at a leisurely pace compared to modern works, it presents the most complete and thrilling portrait of passion ever set forth in the English language. Passion is not a synonym for love in Wuthering Heights-it is an unbridled conflagration consuming all rationality and rendering its victims ravenous beasts, terrifying and magnificent in their hunger. When Catherine declares that her soul will roam the moors forever after her death, even the most confirmed atheist will find himself believing her- passion is such a billowing force in Wuthering Heights that the human body is convincingly rendered a prison of something altogether greater. At the same time, the primordial forces the book presents never become exhausting, contained as they are within a highly unique narrative framework channeling them through characters secondary to the main line of action. For those patient and courageous enough to immerse themselves in its richly textured reality, Wuthering Heights presents a world boarding on the mythic, and it comes highly recommended to the imaginative reader.
on August 20, 2003
The book is written wonderfully, you may call it gothic romance, but the book's really got a style and genre of its own. Now, I only say this for GREAT romance novels, like the Brontes. The language greatly affects the way the story is expressed. It is told in a subtle and bumpy manner, going way ahead of the reader, its many pauses for the narrator gives the reader time to think the thing over, like the guest. Basically, the style and format is a fascinating one, it truly does intrigue the reader to a certain level. Now, it is hard to say if Heathcliff is the kind of man a girl would want( not that I'm a girl ), he is, if you want someone who truly loves you, he's not if you don't want someone to go CRAZY over you. It is--I think--clever of Emily Bronte, to leave this question for readers to consider as they sit comfortably in their beds reading this romance. But if you read it carefully, you will see that the narrator does not form a very high opinion of Heathcliff, yet the latter did deserve the revenge he got. Now, here we have another controversial point for us readers. Thus the novel is a quick one, without all the slow( at least very slow )descriptions and it forms different points of interest as it moves along just pulling the reader in. As the reader gets to the end he/she will feel a shocking yet not surprising end. The ending is a satisfactory one after chapters after chapters of points pointing toward the end. After all, the end is a slope for the way the novel is going. All in all, the book is satisfactory, and something that will--in a way--haunt the reader in later times. It is a masterpiece with all those interesting formats which I will never forget.
on February 27, 2004
I am absolutly stunned. Why do I like this book so much? How did I manage to finish it? I am a 21 year old man living in a modern city and I somehow related to this book. I have nothing in common with the characters or the author or the story or the setting. I had to read this book for college but dropped out before reading it. Several months later I picked it up and gave it a try. I'm not sorry I did. Thinking about it now I start to realize what is so good about the book: it's author's compassion for humanity. All characters in this novel suffer a great deal (partly because of their own stubbornness) but retain their essential humanity: they still need to be loved. And while reading it you can feel the author's longing to be loved herself. So this is what made me read through the book: it speaks directly to your heart in a way you can not ignore.
on October 3, 2009
On October 16th, of 1847, "Jane Eyre: An Autobiography", edited by Currier Bell (pseudonym of Charlotte Brontë) was published. It created some controversy at the time, as many believed it was written by a man. The novel was very popular when published, but critical reaction to it varied. Today, it is clearly a classic, the development of a young woman, who does not fit into the stereotype of a nineteenth century woman. She is not submissive, and she struggles to avoid being dependent on others. The original publication was in three volumes, but this Penguin Classics edition is based on the third edition of Jane Eyre, and it is the last edition which Charlotte Brontë edited and corrected.
The story covers Jane's life from her childhood until her marriage. The childhood chapters can be split into two sections, those where Jane, an orphan, was being raised by her Uncle's family, but her uncle has passed away and her aunt does not like her, but was forced to promise to take care of her. The key parts of this section are Jane's being rejected by the closest thing she has to a family, her morality, and her independence, i.e. her refusal to conform. The second part of her childhood is when she is sent to attend a charity school, called Lowood, where the pupils have to make do with substandard food and clothing. Here Jane finds one teacher who treats her, and the other students, well, Miss Maria Temple. One of the key things in this section is the difference between religion and morality, symbolized by Mr. Brocklehurst a clergyman who is mostly responsible for the appalling conditions at Lowood, and Jane and Miss Temple on the side of morality. Also key is Jane's witnessing her friend, Helen Burns, dying from a typhus epidemic, in spite of her goodness and her submission to the standards imposed by Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Scatcherd, a teacher as cruel as Miss Temple is kind.
The story then picks up many years later, with Jane in position as a teacher at Lowood, but looking to move on. She advertises for a position as a governess and is hired by Mrs. Fairfax. She is to take care of Adèle Varens, a girl who is being taken care of by Mr. Rochester, the master of Thornfield Manor where Mrs. Fairfax is the housekeeper. This section has a lot to do with class, as well as morality. There is the difficulty of Jane falling in love with someone of a different class. There is also the looking down on Jane as being of a lower class, by Mr. Rochester's peers. The morality questions are here to, in the comparison of the higher classes verses that of the lower class. Even Mr. Rochester's behavior is in question, in the events leading up to Jane leaving. Jane also finds out that she does have family left, and when it appears that she is to have everything, she sends a letter to her father's brother. It is this attempt to reconnect with family that causes her to lose nearly everything as it destroys what she thought she was about to have.
The next section details Jane's life after leaving Thornfield Manor. Here she loses almost everything, and is on death's door when she is on the doorstep of Moor House. The Rivers, St. John, Diana, and Mary. It is from this state of having nothing from which she recovers almost everything she could want. Here she recovers her health, she is employed again and regains much of her independence. St. John is in love with a woman, but he will not ask her because he is driven to devote his life to religion. He does find out Jane's true identity though, and this results in Jane learning she has family, and wealth that she didn't know she had. She is pressured by St. John to marry him and join him in his missionary life, but she knows that he doesn't love her. She rejects St. John, and instead goes to find her one love, Mr. Rochester. She now has wealth and family, and she learns that tragedies in Mr. Rochester's life have made what was once impossible possible.
It is a long and winding road which Jane travels in this novel. Probably best classified as a gothic romance, it deals with numerous issues and the strength of Jane's character serves as a good role model for young women, and for that matter anyone. The Penguin Classics edition is filled with supporting documentation as always. There is a wonderful introduction by Stevie Davies, along with a Chronology, suggestions for further reading, notes on the text, opinions of the press, and wonderful textual notes which enhance the reading experience and understanding of the reader.