Review of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Brontë

I’ve read this book so many times, it’s like an old friend. It’s difficult to know what to say about one of the most famous books ever written. A staple text of literature courses, the novel is often examined from a feminist or postcolonial perspective. It’s undoubtedly a classic and is part of the literary canon. Screen adaptations are popular, as are novels inspired by the story. It’s not easy to separate the original book from its cultural influence and look at it on its own, but I’ll try – without too many spoilers, if you’re yet to read the book.

The novel is a fictional autobiography of Jane Eyre, who is clever and strong-willed but neither angelic nor conventionally beautiful – certainly a disadvantage for women in the 19th century. A poor orphan, her childhood is an unhappy one, abused in her relatives’ household and then sent to a dreadful school where she is isolated from society and discouraged from being an individual. Fast-forward a few years, she becomes a governess in a gothic mansion, where she falls in love with her employer, the moody Mr Rochester. But he has a terrible secret and Jane has to choose between what her heart desires and what she knows is right.

What I enjoy most about the novel is the narrative style. Dramatic, confident and easily switching between past and present tense, it’s absolutely gripping – and there are very few novels of that era I can say that about. Jane Eyre herself is a fantastic character, likeable, witty and resourceful. Of course it’s impossible to avoid identifying her as Charlotte Brontë, with whom she shares many characteristics and experiences. It’s interesting to consider that the book was first published in 1847 under the ambiguous pseudonym Currer Bell and no one could be sure if the author was male or female. What I find amazing is that she was thirty-one when the book was published, a comparatively young age to have produced such a mature masterpiece. It’s terribly sad to realise she only lived for eight more years after this. Her last novel, Villette, is my favourite classic. Just think what more she could have achieved had she survived.

This edition is a Penguin Classic, published in 2006, edited with an introduction and excellent notes by Dr Stevie Davies.

17 thoughts on “Review of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Brontë”

  1. This is a book I’ve also read several times. When I first had to read it at school I was 11 or 12, didn’t appreciate it. Luckily I went back to it a few years later and loved it. I’ve never watched any film or tv productions for this book, the book is enough.

    1. I think I struggled with the book a little when I first read it – some of the language and meanings in later parts of the story were probably too difficult for me – but I enjoy reading it as an adult. I’m glad you love the book too 🙂 Adaptations will never capture all the facets of the book.

  2. ‘Jane Eyre’ is always one of those ones which you heartily come back to for sure! I also find it interesting that Charlotte Brontë was somewhat of a pioneer when it came to writing from a child’s perspective – Dickens followed suit, later writing ‘David Copperfield’. Loved this review 😊

    1. Thanks! Glad you liked the review. Oh yes, the child’s perspective is another brilliant thing about the book. Thank you for pointing it out.

  3. I love Jane Eyre, such a fantastic book, and one that can be read over and over. I have seen an adaptation of it but I remember feeling massively underwhelmed at the time, and now I’m struggling to remember anything about it. So, for me the book will always win out 😊 great review 😊

    1. I’m glad you love the book too 🙂 Yes, I’m sure to re-read it again in a few years!

  4. Lovely review! I’ve only read Jane Eyre once years ago but I absolutely loved it. I loved Jane as a character and I think people can relate to her even today. Truly a timeless classic. I’m tempted to reread this book now!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 Jane has got to be one of the best characters. I agree she is very relatable, which I’m sure is one of the reasons the novel stands the test of time.

  5. I had an abridged version of Jane Eyre as a child and read it over and over. When I read the full version as an adult I was surprised by the Rivers section of the story as it had been largely removed from the abridged story. Your review has inspired me to read this again 🙂

    1. That’s interesting – I suppose the Rivers part of the story was not considered essential for a child’s understanding of the book. If you read the (full) version again, I hope you love it 🙂

  6. I agree with you about the narrative style – it is very distinct and makes the book even more memorable. I really must read this book again, thanks for the review and reminding me!

    1. Thanks Jee! 🙂 I think this book is a favourite classic for many readers. If you do read it, I hope you enjoy.

  7. I have more copies of Jane Eyre than any other book – I loved studying it for my English Lit degree. To my shame I haven’t read Vilette – I really should!!

    1. I studied it too, comparing it with Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier! If you love Jane Eyre you will probably love Villette 🙂

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