Currently Reading: Inventing Ireland by Declan Kiberd and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I was eleven. My sixth-grade class that year was doing a reading challenge, where we recorded all of the books we had read on a giant chart, so that we could see how many we read by the end of the year. For whatever reason, I took the challenge quite literally and really strove to challenge myself. I still don't know why I got it into my head to find the biggest, thickest books on the school bookshelf with the biggest, longest words. It's not like I still didn't enjoy Babysitters Club or other small chapter books, designed expressly to be read by children my age. While I don't remember the inspiration that drove me to check out Great Expectations, or Dr. Doolittle, or Wuthering Heights, I did. And while my little head could not understand every word or plot point or character development, it took in enough to realize that there was so much to discover beyond the books I had read before. None of the three books I mentioned above became favorites. In fact, I have never reread them (although I tell myself I should. I have no doubt it would be like culture shock, to reread something as an adult that I only ever experienced as a child.) Yet one classic stuck. And her name is Jane Eyre.
About a year ago, I revisited my old grade school's library and found the copy I first read, sitting there still on the shelf. Small in size, the words are printed tight together on browning pages. The cover is white with a blue border; a drawing of a woman in period dress stands in the foreground, while behind her is a man on a horse. I am an avid collector of copies of Jane Eyre and my bookshelf has a beautiful assortment, ranging in size and color, publication dates stretching from the early 20th century to the present. Yet this is the copy I would love to have over all others (except an 1847 first edition. If you have one of those, let me know!), for it is my original, the one where I first discovered Jane, and Thornfield, and Rochester. In that copy, I found my favorite place, the book that spoke to me above all others, even at a young age. I know others have checked it out after me, but the memory of my first discovery must still be nestled somewhere in those pages, held there indeterminately. I held the little tome in my hand, showing it to my husband, who (bless his heart) has always appreciated and understood this love affair of mine. It felt so right, as if I was reliving a memory and found everything as I had left it, perfectly waiting for me.
Looking back, I can't remember what prompted my small self to notice the book or grab it
from the shelf or take it home but I knew that I fell in love
instantly. Inexplicably, at the age of eleven, something in my soul recognized a piece of
itself, kept within a book cover, hidden on a shelf. And whenever I pull a copy from my shelf and start reading again, the anticipation and excitement that follows is the same as it was even then. Twelve years later, I view Jane Eyre as a friend, a home, a place familiar and welcoming to me, yet also a place where I never cease to discover something new with each visit. Our love affair is still going strong.
Me and Jane on my wedding day, one year ago, at the hair salon.
I have so much to share about my newest experiences rereading Jane Eyre and I look forward to writing about my favorite book on my blog. I already have so many notes and thoughts, just waiting to be shared. P.S. Just for fun, did you know the background on this blog is a picture I took of several of my Jane Eyre copies opened and spread out on the table? :) I thought you would like to know!