Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jane and I.... A Twelve Year Love Affair

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!


  1. This story gave me chills! Jane Eyre was the first book I read for my project -- which only started two years ago. But Charlotte Bronte inspired me to read more, too. To see that there was more to books than what I'd read previously. So we share that! :)

  2. I admire you so much for your passion! Living in this world of science fiction realized, it is sometimes difficult to remember to return to that Holy Grail of reading: book! Not a book or the book, not that book or your book, nor even his, her or my book, and certainly not e-book! Just a simple word that stands tall like a Redwood amongst mere sprouts, that seems to be most powerful when it is all alone and un-capitalized like a single blade of grass in the midst of towering dunes, easily overlooked by the careless mass of humanity these days. But if one takes the time to stop and look close, one becomes privy to a world that puts to shame the glittering reality around us. May "book" be a four letter word we never civilize ourselves away from!

  3. I'll never forget the first time I read Jane Eyre. I was 11 years old and I think it was in Autumn 2000. We were going away and I was very bored in the car, (still do!) without a book so my mum gave me the paperback copy of Jane Eyre she owned at the time and placed it on my lap. From the first page I loved it! I remember not being keen on Rochester because of the way he deceives Jane but as I got older I understood Rochester more and more and fell head over heels in love with him. In September 2000 I started high school and I was bullied which made me very unhappy so Jane became my best friend and as I thought myself plain I could easily understand what Jane meant when she wishes she were pretty.

    Jane Eyre has also distracted me from my disability and has made me believe that a man will love me for who I am despite my disability like Jane loves Rochester even though he is blind. It also taught me to resist temptation and I was amazed at how strong Jane was in leaving Rochester even though she loved him so much, I remember thinking how hard that must have been.

    My favourite parts of the novel are:
    When Jane and Edward first meet
    The first conversation they have
    After Jane saves Edward from the fire
    The conversation they have when Jane leaves the drawing-room
    When Jane finds out Edward is the gypsy
    When Jane asks Edward's permission to leave Thornfield Hall
    When Jane returns to Thornfield Hall
    The proposal! (This part is so passionate and romantic!)
    When Edward is explaining everything to Jane after their interrupted marriage and is trying to convince her to stay with him (I nearly cry when I read that part!)
    The reunion of Jane and Edward

    Every time I read Jane Eyre nowadays I still feel like Jane is my friend telling me everything about herself, I love to read it in bed where I can get cosy and fall in love with the novel and Mr. Rochester all over again! I also have Jane Eyre on audio discs as well it's lovely to listen to when I am unwell or the weather is bad. My mum often passes me one of my copies when I am upset, ill or feeling lonely. I often forget my worries when I read it. When I can't sleep I read it, I once read parts of it at 5:00am! I read it many times a year. Edward Fairfax Rochester is my favourite hero in English literature.

    I have two copies of the novel. My auntie gave me a copy of Jane Eyre in June 2011. It was a complete surprise to me. She said she thought of me when she saw it. She told me that it is a pre World War II copy. The cover is dark blue and the print is nice and easy to read. My auntie loves Jane Eyre too. We talk about our favourite parts of the novel and it is lovely to talk about Jane Eyre to a member of my family. The copy smells old and it is very personal to me because it is from another Jane Eyre fan. She gave me a big hug and a kiss and said, "Enjoy reading it, Kate."

    Now I am 23 and like you, I still am in love Jane Eyre 12 years on!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Kate, everything about your comment is wonderful and made me smile. I love finding people whose lives have been impacted by Jane Eyre, because I know exactly what that is like. Jane is my comfort read, when I am sick or lonely or sad... it has never lost that magic for me. I couldn't agree more with everything you just wrote!

    3. Thank you, Jillian. Like you, Jane Eyre has never lost its magic for me either and it always calms me. There is nothing better than climbing into into bed with a copy of Jane Eyre is there? I'm very happy you liked my comment. I could talk about Jane Eyre all day!


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