Book Review: Jane Eyre

I decided to read more classics this year, and after finishing Anne of Avonlea, I thought I’d try Jane Eyre before going back to the series. I actually borrowed this from the children’s section of the public library. Late one evening, when I was struggling to fall asleep, I decided to do some light reading and opened it up. After the first chapter, I was in a nightmare! It wasn’t the best choice for bedtime reading. I put it down and didn’t pick it up again until a few weeks later. I have a habit of borrowing too many books and then continually renewing them every two weeks until the limit of five renewals is reached, then, either force myself to binge-read in the last few days, or just give up and return the book(s) unfinished. When I picked up Jane Eyre again, I was hooked. The language is not exactly the easiest to understand and I often had to reread passages again and again but the story was captivating. I started to enjoy the overly detailed descriptions of Jane’s thoughts, conversations, surroundings and feelings. I started to feel like I was in Jane’s head and felt how she felt. Her narrative was so honest and pure and I wanted more and more. I devoured the 500+ pages in one week, picking it up every day, reading during breakfast, between meals, before bed. It’s a good thing I don’t have to go to work and do freelance at home, or else I wouldn’t have this luxury. Needless to say, I hardly did any work that week.

The first volume of the book was the most depressing part of the story and I felt so bad for Jane. Orphaned as a baby, she was forced to live with her aunt and cousins who all clearly despised her. They accused her of things she didn’t do and after getting into a fight with her cousin, John Reed, she was locked in the red room of the house where a ghost appeared to her. I was screaming in my head. I normally love thrillers and scary stories and wouldn’t think much of a scene like this, but for some reason, I got goosebumps when I read this – maybe because I was relating to her as a nine-year-old girl.

When she was finally sent to Lowood boarding school, I thought things would improve when she became friends with Helen Burns, but no! She had to suffer even more and eventually grieve the death of Helen, her one true friend! She did become much stronger and even became a teacher at the school for two years, before she advertised to become a governess. And here is where the plot gets really good.

Jane was hired to be a governess to a young girl named Adele in Thornfield Hall, owned by Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester. She grew up into an intelligent, confident and strong-willed young woman and was cared for, appreciated and accepted for who she was, though she remained poor, obscure, plain and small. She began to fall in love with Rochester, which, at first I found it difficult to understand because he was described as ugly, abrupt, strange and secretive. Even more surprisingly, he loved Jane back! But through her honest and detailed descriptions, I started to fall in love with Rochester too – even with all his faults, questionable behaviour, awkward expressions, and despite the fact that he was twice Jane’s age (40+). I wanted to know more, see more, feel more of him. Why? Who really knows? It was like a sickness. Even after the strange fire, the bloody attack of his guest, Richard Mason, and Rochester’s insistance on keeping all that had transpired a secret, did not affect those feelings at all. I – I mean Jane, still loved and wanted him.

Everthing about their relationship was unconventional and uncommon, you may even say sinful, but I was rooting for it! When Jane declared her love for Rochester, I was so happy! Rochester was such an immature man and made her think he was to be married to the least interesting woman on earth! What an asshole move! Why does the woman always have to be the bold one and the man the coward? Finally he proposed and I hurrahed, but I thought that this happy ending is happening too early in the book – there are still over 200 pages left. Clearly, I was right and their wedding was stopped when Mason appeared and informed everyone that Rochester’s previous marriage to his sister, Bertha Mason, was an impediment to his getting married to Jane. Uh, WHAT? Ah, yes… Mason, the man that was stabbed by an unknown being, who turned out to be his sister, has decided to prevent Rochester from getting married to Jane and be happy. Yes, this was what was going through my mind at that moment, not the fact that Rochester had lied and tried to trick everyone and kept a mad woman locked up in the house for years! But, come on! That Bertha is a mad woman! They could not get divorced either. And Jane, the noble, smart, intelligent young woman who was also full of integrity and virtue, decided to leave Rochester and Thornfield Hall and run away without any money, instead of essentially becoming a mistress if she were to stay with Rochester. I can’t describe how much my heart ached at that point. It crushed me to read that Jane and Rochester couldn’t even spend one night together after all that waiting!

After she ran away, she suffered for three days without food or shelter until she came upon the Rivers’ house and begged them to take her in for the night. St John, the kind missionary, let her in. She told them her name was Jane Elliot and shared limited details about her past, expecting to only stay a few nights but she became quite good friends with the Rivers, who nursed her back to health. St John later gave her a job as a mistress of the girls’ school he had opened and her life was slowly getting back to normal. Later, it was discovered that Jane was related to the Rivers and were cousins when her uncle John Eyre of Madeira passed away and left his entire fortune to Jane. The Rivers learned of Jane’s real name and why she had left Thornfield Hall. Jane, the saint that she is, decided to split the fortune among all four of them, so that they could accept her as their sister. This turn of events just seemed too convenient at this point in the story. Jane could have done so much with her inheritance, she could have been free and independent, but she valued and wished for a family more than anything. I don’t think anyone in this day would have done what she did.

One day, St John asked Jane to marry him and go to India with him, saying that he believes God had given Jane her gifts to become a missionary’s wife. Jane, whose heart still yearned for Rochester, agreed to go to India if she may go free and not marry him, which was not acceptable by St John. They argued a few times on the matter and it was finally resolved when Jane suddenly heard her name being called in the middle of the wood, convinced that it was Rochester, she set out to seek him in Thornfield Hall again. Upon arriving in town, Jane learned that Thornfield Hall had been burned to the ground and that the arsonist was none other than Bertha Mason, who then jumped to her death from the roof. Rochester, while trying to save everyone, including Bertha, from the fire, was badly injured and had become blind. So when Jane could finally be with Rochester legally and sin-free, he had become an invalid, an incompetent, dependent, ageing man left with nothing. This had to be the most unsatisfying love-story ending of all time. I expected Jane to be smarter than this and choose a different path, but the heart desired to be chained to Rochester, no matter how ugly, useless, incompetent he was or that she would have to spend the rest of her life taking care of his every need like a nurse. But that was the path she chose and even though he did eventually gain part of his eyesight back and hinted toward a better future for Jane and Rochester, I had so many mixed emotions about this love story. When I finished the book I half jumped for joy and half screamed in frustration. I wanted to reread it and go back to the blossoming romance before all the chaos, but I quickly realised that every part of their romance was chaotic! They never had any real time spent together alone without incident or interruption! There were even times when Rochester was away for weeks with no word but Jane’s love only grew stronger during those times. Yet, it was those moments that made the story so captivating – making you wait, yearn, anticipate, just like Jane did.

I had never read anything like this before and I loved it so much! There are also a lot of Christian and religious themes woven into the story which provided a lot of wisdom and truths. I found it odd at times when the reader was addressed directly in the narrative, sometimes breaking the flow and bringing you out of the story. There were a lot of place names that were written like “——–shire” or simply “S——-” which was rather strange and distracting. I don’t know if it was just the the particular edition I had picked up or what. I also missed a lot of the dialogue when it was written in French with no translation or when it was presented with strange spellings to represent an accent. I gave up trying to understand what the intended words were supposed to be. I might reread it again later and try to decipher them (I downloaded a free e-book version after I returned the book to the library).

After I finished reading it, I got the movie and watched it three times in one night! Michael Fassbender, who I absolutely love, plays Rochester. Though he is described as an unhandsome and unattractive man, I couldn’t think of anyone better to play Rochester. They skipped a lot things from the book but I liked how the story was told as a memory after she ended up with the Rivers. It tied everything together and moved the story along quickly for the movie audiences.

Overall, I loved this book and wish I had read it sooner! Definitely worth five stars!

23rd June

The phone rings at 10, twenty-third of June.
“His blood pressure’s dropping. Come see him soon.”
I take a deep breath and try not to cry.
I look up to the sky and ask God, “Why?”
I shut the door and head to the hospice.

My thoughts run wild, unfiltered in my mind:
“No therapy worked, drug of any kind…
They were all useless; he is still dying.
What was the point of trying anything?
How does it feel to watch your father die?”

I close my eyes and start praying to God.
I know it’s too late but it’s all I’ve got.
It’s no use praying for you to stay.
It’s not what you wanted anyway.
So I ask God to take you to heaven.

I open my eyes to look at your face,
And think about how we got to this place.
You start to moan and we turn to listen.
Every sound, beyond our comprehension.
Is it pain or something you want to say?

“It’s ok, Dad. We know. We love you too.
Though you can’t say it, we know it is true.
God’s waiting for you, where angels will bow!
You can go peacefully to heaven now!
Though we’ll miss you, we’ll see you again soon!”

Letters to My Father (1)

After my father passed away in June, I’ve been writing letters to him to tell him how I am doing. I thought I’d share some of them. To start with, this is the first letter which I was fortunate enough to be able to read to him on Father’s Day, a week before he was taken to Heaven.

Dearest Daddy,

There is so much I want to tell you, but sometimes I don’t know how. I know now that there will never be the best way or the best time to tell you. So here is my letter to you. Ten things I want you to know:

  1. I love you so much – even though I don’t always say it, I truly do. I promise I will say it more often from now on – to everyone that I love. Everyone needs to hear it and everyone deserves to be loved. I love you, I love you, I love you with all my heart! Even when you are not with me, I will still love you, always and forever.

 

  1. I am so proud of you and everything that you have done. You have helped so many people in need and inspired so many others to do what you do. You have inspired me to follow my dreams and listen to my heart. You have taught me to be humble but I am so proud, Daddy. I am proud to call you my father and proud to be your daughter. I know you are proud of me too! I hope I will always make you proud, wherever you are.

 

  1. I am sorry, Daddy. I’m sorry for every stupid thing I’ve ever done. I’m sorry for every time I made you angry or upset. I’m sorry for getting angry with you too. I’m sorry for saying the wrong things at the wrong times. I’m sorry for not understanding you and not listening to you. I’m sorry that you had to suffer this unbearable pain, I’m sorry that I couldn’t take it away. I’m sorry for not knowing what to do. I’m sorry for not spending more time with you, taking walks with you, or going swimming with you when you asked me to. I’m really sorry, Daddy.

 

  1. I know you are sorry too. And I forgive you. We have all done things we regret and wish we hadn’t. But the past is the past and I will not hold on to these memories. They are already forgotten! I understand now that you were going through many challenges and frustrations. I forgive you, Daddy. Please don’t worry about it anymore!

 

  1. Thank you for all your support and being such a good listener. You have always supported me and helped me through all my hurdles. You guided me to the right path whenever I felt uncertain or lost. You simply listened and helped me to find my own way. Your unwavering support gave me the strength to make my own decisions and to realize that there will never be a ‘perfect’ choice, decision or path. You never made me feel unworthy or ashamed. You loved me for who I am and for being myself. I have never thanked you for everything you have done for me. I have never realized how much you were there for me all these years. When I had lost all my hair, you still made me feel beautiful. When I was rushing to finish my thesis and stressing about my conclusion, you calmed me down and helped me to find the right words. When I told you my hopes and dreams for the future, you told me, ‘Go for it!’ without any hesitation. When I struggled to make sense of everything that was happening to you the last few years, you reassured me and helped me to understand and appreciate what we have. Thank you for being the understanding one, and never losing your patience. Thank you!

 

  1. Thank you for loving me so much and caring about me every day. Thank you for worrying about me too. But Daddy, you don’t need to worry about me anymore. I’m all grown up now. You don’t need to worry about Mum or Daniel. We will always be there for each other, no matter what. We will look after each other. We will take good care of Mum for you, I promise!

 

  1. I am thankful for every day together. I’m thankful for all our wonderful trips together and getting to see the amazing wonders of the world. I’m thankful we got to have an unforgettable family vacation in Ensenada while seeking alternative treatment, all four of us together. We all took a break from our busy lives to be together, relax, and enjoy some quality and much-needed family time. I’m grateful for the most memorable birthday at La Bufadora. You made me feel so loved and special! I’m grateful we got to meet some amazing people and even made some new friends along the way. I’m grateful for all the little miracles that we experienced and witnessed every day that we were there. Through all our ups and downs, we never lost hope. This experience has taught me to never give up, no matter how tough it is. I will never give up on anything!

 

  1. I want you to know that I will follow my heart, my dreams, and all my hopes for the future. I hope I can achieve as much as you have. I hope I can have your courage and your strength to overcome every challenge. I hope to follow in your footsteps and make a difference in the community. I hope to find someone special that will love me as much as you do. I hope to travel to new places, discover new things about myself, and find new passions. I still hope to write that book someday!

 

  1. I will smile every day. I will take good care of myself. I will remember to rest, eat, drink and play! I will support all my family and my friends, just like you. I will teach my students the lessons you have taught me – to be kind, humble, grateful, caring, loving, and compassionate. I will enjoy life and be happy. I will smile and laugh whenever I think of you.

 

  1. You will always be with me in my heart wherever I am and wherever I go, and I will never stop loving you. You will be with me forever through every moment, happy or sad. I will think of you every day and never forget you.

 

Daddy, you are not just my father; you are my role model, my mentor, my cheerleader, my teacher, my best friend, and my hero. You are one of a kind and one in a million.

 

With all my heart, loving you always,

Your loving daughter