The two times I failed to read Jane Eyre and the one time I succeeded

Settle yourself dear reader, for I am going to take you on a little journey.
I have long wanted to read and appreciate the work of the Brontes. I have tried and failed on several occasions to read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and not had much success. I did manage to read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights which I hated. So, you know. Maybe their writing style isn’t for me, but I was determined to at least finish Jane Eyre, which is where this story comes to you.

Attempt One.

When I was at primary school and just getting into reading, my teachers would regularly run out of things to give me to read. I was reading above my age level (ironic considering I mostly read YA now…) and absolutely loved the thrill of achieving books that should have been out of my league.
I was also a big fan of Matilda and was convinced that if I read as widely as her, I too would develop telekinetic powers.

One of my teachers recommended me Moby Dick which I’ve not revisited. Apart from the first line, the only other thing I remember is that Ishmael gave me a three page description about his luggage. Another teacher recommended Jane Eyre, so me, aged around 10 mentioned this to my mum who presented me with a copy of the book from a drawer. I remember two things about this event:

  1. I was very impressed.
    My mum didn’t really read so the fact that she had this book must mean it was good
  2. I was very intimidated.
    This book is THICC.

That first attempt to read Jane Eyre ended just a few pages in. Jane picked a fight with her cousin and got locked in a room and I could not care less if she ever emerged. I hated her and her cousins and it was so tiresome it was shelved and there it remained for years.

Attempt two.

As a teenager I continued to read whatever I could, but I gave up on the idea of reading classics because they made me feel stupid. I had tried a few more of them and was studying Frankenstein at school but I just could not get into the narrative style of books of a certain age. One of my best friends at the time was also a big reader and a huge fan of the romantic classics, one of which was Jane Eyre, and as I had it gathering dust on my shelf, I gave it another try. I still hated everyone, still hated how it was written but I did get much further than before, this time I gave up after Jane’s arrival at school. I didn’t get how everyone was so dramatic about everything! This time, rather than putting her back on the shelf, I moved house, so Jane was sent off to a charity shop where someone else could have a go at struggling with her.

After attempt two, I didn’t give Jane Eyre another thought. I did read Wuthering Heights in my twenties, a review of which was one of the first blog posts I ever wrote! But I didn’t think it was romantic and I resigned myself to the idea that I would never revisit another Bronte novel.


Attempt three

I am thirty years old, I have started listening to audio books so I can get through a book while doing mundane adult things like going to work and cleaning the kitchen. While scrolling through my app I found Jane Eyre as read by Thandie Newton and considered whether the audio book would be easier?

Whether you think audio books count as reading or not, this is the most success I’d had with this book – I not only finished it, but dare I say it, I think I even enjoyed it?!
This is the first time I managed to meet Rochester! I mean, surprise, surprise I hated him too but having Thandie Newton’s dulcet tones read the book to me made it much easier for me to get through it, there was still a lot I didn’t get…

My thoughts:

  • All the characters are extra af
  • Like Wuthering Heights this didn’t strike me as a romance. I’m very worried about how the Brontes were treated in relationships if they think this is acceptable behaviour.
  • I still think the story is ridiculous!
  • How did Jane and Rochester even fall in love? They have like four conversations before he proposed and she was only 18!
  • Why did he leave Bertha in his loft? Couldn’t he have had her installed at a hospital or something? Couldn’t Richard Mason have looked after her?
  • This is basically Dynasty levels of ridiculous but set in older times.

Those thoughts aside, I am so happy that I finally managed to finish this! I feel enriched having now experienced this cultural phenomenon. I think I’d like to give other classics a try in this format to see how I get on, it seems like Jane Eyre is three times the charm, what will Pride and Prejudice be?!

Have any of you guys read this?
What did you think?
Did you struggle at first?
Can you think of any other classics I should listen to?

Let me know!


1 thought on “The two times I failed to read Jane Eyre and the one time I succeeded”

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