A week of work, a holiday in Sweden that happily seemed to last forever and 400 pages of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane separates me from these final thoughts on the latter half of this classic novel so please do forgive me if my thoughts on this book are all over the place. Re-reading my first post I’m fairly disappointed with myself as 70% of it seems to be merely relaying the plot. ‘I could have told you all of this myself’ I hear you cry… The reason for this is that, although I have found this book to be enjoyable, I also found it to be rather tiring. Why? Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood. Perhaps, although I found the likes of Sense and Sensibility a welcome change from my usual fare and relatively easy to get into, my 21st century brain kept saying ‘get on with it woman!’ For the majority of the second half I felt I was merely waiting (with a great deal of impatience, I might add) for the inevitable to happen, which it did.
I am being unfair I know, this is an absolute classic and rightly so. I enjoyed Bronte’s writing, I enjoyed the development of the unusual relationships between the extremely varied and compelling characters (the cast expands in a rather interesting direction once Jane leaves Thornfield Hall) and I could appreciate the vivid, wild English landscape within which this drama unfolds.
**WARNING – SPOILERS**
Whilst the high and mighty flounce around her new home and her new master, what Jane crucially fails to realise, being partially blinded by Blanche Ingram’s silk skirts and sharp tongue, is that all Edward Rochester really desires is her. The reader is swept along with the rose tinted wedding plans and dreams of an exciting, happy future for this previously downtrodden young woman gradually begin to materialise before we are met with undoubtedly one of the most exciting and equally terrifying portions of the book. Shouts, screams and bedsheets bursting into flame in the middle of the night lead Jane to rightly suppose that something is indeed afoot in the depths of the dark hall. Her anxious thoughts all point towards a servant named Grace Poole, feelings that are further compounded when a strange visitor of Mr Rochester’s is supposedly attacked by this troubled woman.
To follow is one of the most effective scenes in the book, when Jane is visited in the dead of night by a specter who tears the wedding veil hanging in her closet. I love it when books are even more vivid than the most troubling dreams. Certain sections of The Shining by Stephen King come to mind. I read this scene in bed late at night and it was so affective that when the bf decided to spill water over himself and squeal as soon as I turned the light off I was utterly petrified and was convinced that Jane Eyre’s unwanted visitor had come into my very own bedroom.
This grotesque figure and her binding relationship with Mr Rochester, revealed on the wedding day, drives Jane away from her love and into utter destitution. This is where I began to get frustrated. Jane makes herself homeless and wanders around the wilds for days without sustenance, only to collapse at the door of some, fortunately for her, benevolent young women. Along with their utterly humorless pastor brother (‘St John’ – whose odd manners Jane eventually warms to but that I did not, making the plot a little harder for me to believe) she is nursed back to health, a position as the mistress of a local school is found and Jane resigns herself to a life of loneliness in a solitary little cottage.
However, fortune soon falls in her lap when it is discovered that, thanks to a distant uncle whose existence had been hidden from her all of her life, Jane becomes the heiress to a great fortune and, in the process, discovers that the bearer of this news, St John Rivers himself, is, along with his kind sisters, her cousin………
I run out of puff here, this entire episode dragged on far too long for me. Jane’s domestic bliss setting up home for her new found family is pleasant but the over riding sense of dissatisfaction due to the absence of Rochester was far too frustrating for me, though I realise this was probably Bronte’s intention. This is followed by a bit of an odd portion where the irritating pastor character attempts to take Jane off to India on a crusade of some kind, making her his wife in the process to do so. **Yawn**
By the time all of our dreams come true and our heroine is finally reunited with her love (all be it in his bruised and battered state), well, I was a bit tired to be honest, meaning that my reaction was a little lacklustre and that’s a shame. This isn’t a bad book, it is an absolute classic BUT (and that’s a big but) it is too long. This isn’t any ordinary 500 pages, this is 500 pages of tiny type. I began to do that really terrible thing where every couple of chapters or so I would start to flick towards the end to see how far I had to read. Terrible. This size type is hardwork isn’t it!!!!
A book has to be absolutely phenomenal to hold my attention for this long. This is a very good story, an extremely important piece of literature historically with some timeless characters but ‘good’ + really long just doesn’t cut it and unfortunately the degree of early 19th century digression just wasn’t my mood this time around. Never mind ey, I’m still looking forward to the film 🙂
A good 7/10. I’m intrigued to know what everyone else thinks about this classic…..
In other news, I have introduced a section called ‘Seeds Reads’ (please see right hand column) showing what the bf has decided to pick up and stick his nose in. (He doesn’t get to read as much as he would like to these days.) He recently read, and re-read, and re-read the first ten pages of I like it here by Kingsley Amis, which he thought was rubbish and unfortunately had a cover that made it look like a rudey nudey book that meant he couldn’t read it in public. I therefore finally persuaded him to read some good ol’ Laurie Lee and guess what? He loves it. Now there’s a surprise.