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Penguin Classics Jane Eyre [Hardcover]

Charlotte Bronte
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 26 2010 Penguin Classics
Part of "Penguin's" beautiful hardback "Clothbound Classics" series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design. Charlotte Bronte's first published novel, "Jane Eyre" was immediately recognised as a work of genius when it appeared in 1847. Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. How she takes up the post of governess at Thornfield Hall, meets and loves Mr Rochester and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage are elements in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than that traditionally accorded to her sex in Victorian society.

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About the Author

Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), along with her sisters Emily and Anne, is one of the greatest novelists of the 19th century. She is also the author of Shirley, The Professor and Villette. Dr Stevie Davies is a novelist, critic and historian. She is Director of Creative writing at the University of Wales Swansea. She is the author of four books on Emily Bronte, three novels, and three books in the Penguin Critical Studies series.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Upside down :( July 6 2012
By tints
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I ordered this because I wanted to re-read one of my favourite novels. When I opened the front cover, I saw that the pages were in upside down! The novel is still as good as I remember, I just have to turn the book upside down and start reading from the back cover instead.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am Jane Eyre Oct. 27 2009
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Considered a literary masterpiece for a reason; or, A magnificent tale of unrequited love, and so much more April 3 2011
By sazbah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As much as I know this is a classic, and I feel a review a tad redundant, I've just read the magnificent Jane Eyre for the first time, and I'm so utterly enamoured, I simply must wax poetic about it a while!

Where to start. I've just finished reading Charlotte Brontë's Gothic masterpiece for the first time, and I feel a mixture of breathless and speechless.

Chronicling the life of the orphaned Jane Eyre, the novel begins with a truly upsetting account of what can only be called horrific child abuse. We encounter Jane as she strikes back at her childhood tormentor--her cousin John--for the first time, after quietly enduring teasing, beating, and the hatred of her only family (her dead uncle's wife, and her 3 cousins) for the whole of her short 10 years. As punishment, she is confined to the 'Red Room', the room in which her uncle died. As the sun sets, and she's left in darkness, the terrified child has a panic attack, and her aunt advantageously uses the event to have Jane sent away to Lowood School--a change of scene to save her nerves.

We watch Jane grow into a passionate young woman, develop self-respect, a distaste for injustice, and her own strong sense of right and wrong. After completing her education, and working two years at Lowood as a teacher, Jane hungers for a new situation in life, so advertises in the paper, and is invited to take up a post as governess for a child, at a wealthy, private residence. Here we experience part spooky mystery, part love story, and see the world of Thornfield Manor through fiery and fascinating Jane's eyes.

Jane Eyre is many things--a journey of self discovery, a love story, and a surprisingly progressive tale for its day. It holds some strongly feminist ideas, or perhaps more than feminist, ideas about justice, class systems, and equality. It's Jane, a relative 'commoner' who shows more backbone and self-respect than many of her high-bred 'superiors'. Social standing, graces, and superficial manners all come second to intelligence, self-respect, actually having character, and one's own mind.

It's mentioned--and constantly reiterated that neither Jane, nor her suitor, are physically much to look at. The idea of true beauty coming from within, and beauty being in the eye of the beholder is another strong theme here. Jane as a character is in strong contrast with others, such as the beautiful, yet shallow and capricious Georgiana Reed, or cruel and superficial Blanche Ingram. Where these women are admired in the highest regard in their upper class society, despite their lack of character, Jane is despised, but she is the better human being. I love that she KNOWS it, also.

We're also presented with a wonderful array of unique and colourful characters, very few of whom seem black and white. Rochester, most obviously, struggling to justify his actions before God and society, every bit as much as to his own self; wanting to be good, wanting to be a better man, but really--let's be honest--failing. He's resigned to the fact he can't be better without outside influence. We have a role reversal here: rather than our male hero being a knight in shining armour to a damsel in distress, Rochester views Jane as his saviour. Then characters like Bessie: sweet, but with a temper that will turn as quickly as the wind. She's neither good, nor bad. The adorable, but admittedly vapid, Mademoiselle Adèle, and above all Jane, who lives by her own rules and sense of morality, rather than those of society... and really, who's are better, here?. There are still clichés here, though. The lunatic wife, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters (In the shape of aunt and cousins)... But at the time, were these clichés at the time this was written?

Amidst all the romance and wonderful characters, it's easy to forget the wonderful gothic thriller/mystery at the heart of Thornfield, and for anyone new to the story, its heartbreaking conclusion. And the romantic tension between Jane and Rochester? It's as palpable--if not more so--than any modern romance I've read (here's looking at you Twilight), but for once we're dealing with a girl with backbone. This is nothing like a Jane Austen love story. We're not dealing with manners and moving within the bounds of acceptable society--this is unrequited love, people.

On an aside, for those who've read A Room of One's Own (Annotated), and Wolfe's criticism of both Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre, it's interesting to see parallels between the two works: that a woman doesn't need a man to define her; that having one's own means is essential for any woman who wants to create (or maintain an independent mind); that it's the value of human being's heart and mind--not outward appearances--that is what gives them value (I'm thinking about Judith and William Shakespeare, here). Jane is every bit as good as Mrs and the Misses Reeds, the Ingrams, and indeed, a number of the men of this book. She is the intellectual equal of Rochester, and perhaps superior of St John, regardless of her sex.

Despite the time since it was written, Jane Eyre is not hard to read. I often struggle with older novel but it's far easier than Dracula, which was an effort for me, though not necessarily a good comparison. It's hugely entertaining, in parts absolutely heartbreaking, and there is a good reason why it remains popular, and a 'classic' over a hundred years later. It's an extraordinary work of fiction, beautifully written, and with just as much to enjoy now as it did when it was first published.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice classic looking volume Jan. 3 2014
By Cammi Peck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A lovely book in a lovely cover. It was a great present for a friend who recently found a love for classics.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Alternative Candidate Jan. 1 2014
By J C E Hitchcock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I celebrated my 100th review on this site by putting forward my nomination (Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”) for the title of The Great English Novel, so I thought I would celebrate my 200th by putting forward an alternative candidate. Although it also contains elements of other genres “Jane Eyre” is an example of the Bildungsroman, a German term which literally means “novel of education” but which could be better translated as “novel of character formation”. Such novels follow the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from childhood or youth to adulthood, and are often (as here) told in the first person.

The novel was first published in 1847, although references in the text suggest that the action takes place a few decades before that date, around 1800/1810. (A point generally lost on adaptors for television or the cinema, who persist in showing the characters dressed in early Victorian rather than Regency style).

Although it is set in an easily recognisable Northern England, and contains elements of social criticism, it is not really a social-realist novel as we would understand the term. From a twenty-first century perspective the plot is not a completely satisfactory one, relying overmuch on coincidence and containing too many plot-holes. What, for example, are the odds against Rochester’s brother-in-law Richard Mason turning out to be an acquaintance of Jane's uncle in Madeira, or against the Rivers family, who shelter her after her flight from Thornfield Hall, turning out to be her long-lost cousins? As for the plot holes, they mostly concern the figure of the “mad wife in the attic”. It is never really satisfactorily explained how Rochester has managed to keep his first wife’s existence a secret from all but a tiny handful of people, or how he expects to keep her existence a secret from Jane after their marriage.

Yet, from a nineteenth century perspective, these matters would not have been seen as defects at all. They were common literary devices according to the conventions of the period, when novels often revolved around the reunion or rediscovery of long-lost relations under the most unlikely circumstances, or around an unexpected legacy. As for the mad Mrs Rochester, a haunting, malevolent presence in the house even before the full details of her history are revealed to the reader, she reflects Charlotte Brontë’s debt to the “Gothic” movement in literature. Literary Gothicism may have been mocked by Jane Austen (a writer Brontë did not much care for) in “Northanger Abbey”, but it survived her mockery and its influence continued to be felt well into the nineteenth century. The brooding, haunted atmosphere of Thornfield Hall is one the great strengths of the book; had Mr Rochester, for example, disposed of his first wife by, for example, consigning her to an asylum the novel would have been more conventionally “realistic”, and yet weaker, less atmospheric and less compelling. (Both these conventions, in fact, also occur in another great English Bildungsroman, Dickens’s “Great Expectations”, where Pip’s beloved Estella turns out to be the illegitimate daughter of his unknown benefactor and which contains its own Gothic figure in Miss Havisham).

The figure of Mr Rochester himself draws on another early nineteenth century tradition, that of the “Byronic hero”, a tradition dating back to Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” and one which was to have a lasting influence on English and European (especially Russian) literature. Lord Macaulay described such a hero as "a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection", a description which would certainly fit Rochester. Like Childe Harold, he has wandered through Europe in a search for pleasure and a happiness which has always eluded him. Although he is not physically attractive (another point generally lost on the makers of screen adaptations) he is fascinating enough to win Jane’s heart, despite the fact that his principles and hers are by no means always the same.

In some ways, therefore, “Jane Eyre” can be seen as a conventional early Victorian novel, but in others it looks ahead to the future. In its emotional depth and Jane's frankness about her experiences it can be seen as prefiguring the modern psychological novel. Moreover, although Jane is clearly a sympathetic heroine, she is also in some respects an unreliable narrator. Indeed, it is in some ways her sympathetic characteristics which make her unreliable. She (like her creator) is a devout Christian, but it is her sense of Christian charity and forgiveness which makes her judge others more charitably than their behaviour towards her may warrant. She readily forgives Rochester for trying to trick her into a bigamous marriage, and St. John Rivers for trying to bully her into a loveless one by exploiting her religious sentiments, but that forgiveness does not mean the reader should be blind to either man’s faults.

As I said, Charlotte Brontë (like Austen, the daughter of a clergyman) was deeply religious, but she was also concerned about certain strains of thought prevalent in English Christianity during her lifetime, and these concerns are reflected in the novel in the figures of Mr. Brocklehurst and Rivers. Both men are Evangelical clergymen and both, significantly, are described as being more like marble than flesh-and-blood. Theirs is a stern, rigid Christianity, a faith based more on fear than on love. There are, of course, differences between the two men. Brocklehurst, the head of Lowood School which Jane attends as a child, is a hypocritical bully, Rivers a perfectly sincere one, but that does not make his bullying any easier to tolerate. If Brocklehurst’s sin is that of self-righteous hypocrisy, Rivers’s is that of spiritual pride. In his zeal for martyrdom he reminded me uncomfortably of the arguments of the Fourth Tempter in Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral”. (“Fare forward to the end....”)

There may be limits to Brontë’s social radicalism- her heroine eventually discovers that she is a wealthy heiress- but there is throughout the novel an insistence on the worth and dignity of the poor and a critique of the rich who look down on them, particularly the snobbish Blanche Ingram and Jane’s wealthy relatives, the Reeds, who despise her because the early death of her parents has left her penniless. (The names Brontë gives her characters often have a symbolic meaning; the surname “Reed” recalls the “broken reed” of the Bible, Jane’s surname “Eyre”, pronounced “air”, may indicate that she is a free spirit whereas “Rochester” recalls the libertine seventeenth century poet who was in some ways a predecessor of Byron). There is also an insistence upon the rights of women and their right to determine their own fate without being dictated to by men. Brontë’s account of life at Lowood recalls Dickens’s crusading zeal when he described a similarly dreadful school, Dotheboys Hall in “Nicholas Nickleby”. Such social criticism was by no means unprecedented; the 1840s saw the emergence of the “condition of England” novel in which writers like Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell took issue with the prevailing social conditions of the time. It does, however, also align her with later writers such as Hardy who also often dealt with the theme of love between people of different social classes.

There is, of course, a lot more to be said about “Jane Eyre” than I have space to mention in this review. What I have tried to do is to explore those facets which most struck me about this great book and explain why I called it a candidate for the title of “Great English Novel”.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful version of a great classic Jan. 7 2010
By Liana Perez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book along with Pride and Prejudice. They are more beautiful in person that in the pictures. Very well made and durable and the paper is thick and high quality so they will hold up even if you read them over and over as I do with my favorites. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels. The story is such a wonderful mix of classic romance but with splashes of the dark and supernatural. I highly recommend these gorgeous penguine classics to everybody and I can't wait to order the rest of them for myself.
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