Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte…Final Thoughts…

*This post may contain spoilers for those who have not read the novel, although, from what I can tell, there does not seem to be many who have never read Jane Eyre. J

Oh Jane Eyre, (first published by Charlotte Bronte in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell) even now I am not sure that I completely understand what all the hype is about. The novel did become much more interesting after the first third. I liked the book. It was certainly better than I had expected it to be, but I am still not sure if I can list it as one of my absolute favorites. However, it goes without saying that Charlotte Bronte was a talented writer.

Some thoughts:
1.      Did anyone else have a hard time picturing Jane as just an 18-19 year old girl? She seemed to resonate in my head as more of a contemporary of Mr. Rochester’s generation and I had to keep reminding myself how young she really was.
2.      I really enjoyed the scene where Mr. Rochester posed as the fortune teller! I also liked how interested Jane seemed to be in “signs” and the meaning of dreams and such. For example: “When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbott that she had been dreaming about a little child: and that to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to oneself or one’s kin.”
3.      It surprised me that Jane would travel back to see Mrs. Reed on her death bed. I am not sure that I would have been able to turn the other cheek and give the woman any satisfaction.
4.      Beautiful foreshadowing for what is about to happen to Jane and Rochester on their proposed wedding day: “It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind, delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air torrent thundering through space. Descending the laurel-walk, I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stood up, black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gasped ghastly. The cloven halves were not broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them unsundered below; though community of vitality was destroyed-the sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side were dead … as yet, however, they might be said to form one tree-a ruin, but an entire ruin.”
5.      If you were Jane, what would you have done upon the discovery of Mrs. Rochester? Would you have escaped in the night to nothing and no one or would you have stayed with Mr. Rochester, your love, although marriage was no longer an option? “What is better?-To have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion … fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern climate … to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress … or to be a village schoolmistress, free and honest, in the breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?” I would have stayed with Rochester.
6.      Grace Poole…uh, how the heck did this woman retain her own sanity while being cloistered on the third floor providing care for a lunatic such as Mrs. Rochester? Wasn’t she scared out of her mind that she was going to end up dead herself? I don’t blame her for her propensity to drink gin in the evenings!
7.     Did I find any more similarities to Rebecca as I read on? Well, Grace Poole is odd, but she is definitely no Mrs. Danvers. There are many obvious plot differences and the more passionate love story of Jane and Rochester. Thornfield burns to the ground like Manderlay, but ultimately, Daphne du Maurier’s work felt much darker…it was much heavier on the “eerie” factor…much more suspenseful. Some of this was no doubt because Manderlay itself became a character, taking on a life of its own, while Thornfield remained just a setting and because Jane Eyre simply contained a much more hopeful tone than Rebecca.
8.      Did I find that Jane returned to her former feisty glory? Not exactly in the bold way that I had hoped for, but a certain fire laced with grace remained. Actually, I quite liked it.
Charlotte Bronte
1816-1855

Favorite Quotes:

“The waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing; I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me.” – Jane Eyre
“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.” – Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte…Initial Thoughts…

I have read about a third of Jane Eyre, the classic I never intended to read, and so far…so-so. The novel opens with Jane looking back on her life at age 10. Her parents are deceased and she has been living in the home of her Uncle Reed who, on his own death-bed, forced his wife to promise to continue to look after Jane. She is provided with material comforts, but is treated cruelly and starved for affection. She is reminded each and every day just how unwanted she is in the Reed’s world. Ultimately, she is shipped off to a school for orphans. At least here, Jane meets companions and receives an education; however, the girls are often literally starving and there is a typhus outbreak that results in the death of many students. Eventually, the conditions at Lowood are exposed and improved. Jane excels academically and at age 18, she joins the cast of characters at the home of Mr. Rochester as governess.

Initially, I fell in love with Jane’s feisty character (the scene where she stands up to Mrs. Reed!!!), but her time at Lowood appears to have dampened some of her original fire. Perhaps this is just a natural maturing. I became bored by much of the story in this first third. I was struck with a “blah” feeling that reminded me of Jane’s simple, “blah” appearance. Is this where the term “plain Jane” originated from? However, things seem to finally be picking up. Someone has tried to burn Mr. Rochester alive by setting his bed on fire and there is much mystery surrounding one Grace Poole. The mention of Poole brings me to one of the reasons why I decided to read this novel in the first place: I had heard that it held similarities to Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. I found they both start rather slow, involve a mansion shrouded in mystery with an eerie portion of the home that isn’t used and include a whack job character on the house staff. Also, in both cases, the narrators are reflecting on their past. Will the similarities end here? Will Jane return to her former feisty glory? Ok, I am intrigued enough to read on…

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (15-27)

*Warning: this post contains material that warrants a “spoiler alert” for those that have never read the novel Rebecca. J
To say that Rebecca picks up speed in the second half of the novel is an understatement. The suspense was finally killing me, especially after the “OMG” revelation at the end of chapter 19. But, before we get to that: a brief summary of prior events. Since leaving off at the end of chapter 14, we know that the mysterious Mr. Favell is Rebecca’s cousin. The narrator has appeared at her first Manderley costume ball dressed exactly as Rebecca had been dressed at her last…due to the meddling of our eerie Mrs. Danvers. (I knew this was going to happen the moment she suggested a costume to the current Mrs. de Winters.) Then, the following morning the narrator has another fascinating run in with Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca’s bedroom where we learn that Mrs. Danvers had provided care for Rebecca as a child (hence her unusual attachment to the late Mrs. de Winters) and that she was also aware of Rebecca’s infidelity in her relationship with Maxim. The news of Rebecca’s unfaithfulness was interesting, but I did not find the news surprising. During this encounter, Mrs. Danvers also tries to talk the narrator into killing herself since it is “obvious” that Maxim does not love her and she does not belong at Manderley. At this same time, a ship wrecks off the shores of Manderley and eventually a diver is sent down to assess the damage. We learn that Rebecca’s boat has inadvertently been found by the diver and that there is a decomposed body aboard. Could it be one of her lovers?
It is then that Maxim drops a bombshell on his second wife and the reader: “The woman buried in the crypt is not Rebecca … it’s the body of some unknown woman, unclaimed, belonging nowhere. There never was an accident. Rebecca was not drowned at all. I killed her. I shot Rebecca in the cottage on the cove. I carried her body to the cabin, and took the boat out that night and sunk it there, where they found it today.” I have to say, it is not often that something in a novel genuinely surprises me, but this did. Although I suspected foul play in Rebecca’s death, I never for a moment suspected Maxim. I think I may have been suspecting Mrs. Danvers. Immediately, I began to wonder who else may have known. Was Mrs. Danvers aware? Was that why she had expressed such cold, bitter feelings for Maxim to the narrator earlier that day? Did Frank know? Was that why he had been so insistent that he must explain things to the narrator after her breakdown with him on the telephone that morning? It is hard to tell what good ole “Danny” actually knew and when she may have known it as she was so generally unhinged. It seems though, that Frank may have certainly been aware of the true nature of Rebecca’s demise even though Maxim had no idea that he knew.
I found the narrator’s handling of her husband’s admission remarkable. I am not sure that I would have remained quite so calm and supportive. Although I guess one can understand this reaction as Maxim’s confession also brought with it the revelation that he had never loved Rebecca, but had in fact loathed her and their sham of a marriage. The second Mrs. de Winter was, astonishingly, the one and only true Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca had been sleeping around with anyone and everyone including her cousin, Mr. Favell, and appears to have been an all together vile person. But, isn’t it so ironic that Maxim could have saved himself all this misery? He could have saved his Manderley. After all, Rebecca was dying anyway. Now that I think about it, perhaps Manderley was Maxim’s only true love – the only thing he was ever really married to. In any event, I can’t help but feel sorry for the life that the narrator is left with. And, by the way, what was her name??



The author…Daphne du Maurier




An older Daphne du Maurier



Checkin In…Random Thoughts Related to Writing and Reading…

Hello there!

1. I am finished with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and am currently about 200 pages in with Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, both of which I am reading for Allie’s January read-alongs.

2. I have been busy receiving some interesting book loot from online purchases. I will be sharing the details soon. I am happy to report that I have purchased seven selections and have saved around $60 with the use of store coupons, member discounts, and store bucks! Yes, I am really excited about my savings…lol!

3. Something that bothers me about my writing: I cannot seem to ever fully master the proper use of punctuation, especially things like the comma and the semicolon. I took a grammar course in college, but am too lazy to refer to my notes while I am writing. I know that convention is important in the writing of academic papers, but is it really that important in creative writing or blogging? About the only thing I ever remember for sure is that a comma is required before the use of “but” in a sentence.

4. Something that bothers me about my reading: I have a horrible time with the proper or intended pronunciation of the names of people and places in books. This really aggravates me. It occurs to me that this is one situation where audio books really come in handy!

HELP! 🙂

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1-14)

* Ok, I know we are not supposed to be making our first read-along post for Rebecca until the middle of January, but in order to stay organized (in my weird OCD mind) while I participate in three simultaneous read-alongs, I feel as though I need to make the first post for each novel as I finish the first allotted section for that novel. I plan to finish Rebecca tonight, but I won’t post the final post for any of the novels until the indicated time. So…let this serve as a spoiler alert if you have not yet finished part one of the novel.*

Fourteen chapters in with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, published in 1938, and we still do not know the name of our narrator, the second Mrs. de Winter. I find this very irksome. Perhaps this is so the reader has to focus on Rebecca while the second Mrs. de Winter fades into the background. Here is what we do know about the narrator:
1.      Her parents are deceased.
2.      She is apparently around the age of 21 when she marries Maxim de Winter who is 42.
3.      At the time of her marriage, she does not appear to have much self confidence or social refinery.
4.      She does not resemble the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca (which is apparently what attracted Maxim to her).
5.      She and Maxim never really discussed Rebecca and the mystery surrounding this woman is becoming a little bit of an obsession for the second Mrs. de Winter.
6.      She appears to like dogs.
This is really not a lot of information. What do we know about the elusive Rebecca? Well, not a whole lot more as it turns out. She was apparently beautiful, tall, and blessed with dark hair and fair skin. She was a marvelous hostess and lady of the house. She died in some tragic sailing accident in the bay near Manderley. It also appears that she could be rather odd…rambling around the boathouse at night, sailing alone at night, and threatening the mentally handicapped Ben. He reveals the following interesting information:  “She gave you the feeling of a snake. I seen her here with mine own eyes. By night she’d come … I looked in on her once … and she turned on me, she did … she said you’ve never seen me here … if I catch you looking at me through the window here I’ll have you put in the asylum.” Hmm…
And, how creepy is the house manager, Mrs. Danvers? I was completely freaked out by her performance with the narrator in Rebecca’s old bedroom in chapter 14. I am wondering what role she is really playing here and in the past with Rebecca. If I was the new Mrs. de Winter, I would have had her replaced despite her efficiency. I also would have asked to decorate my own morning room and not live in the wake of Rebecca’s preferences. Oh, and who the hell is this Mr. Favell?? I did find it rather amusing that he calls Mrs. Danvers “Danny.”
I certainly am interested in getting to the bottom of all this mystery and yet I find that the book is moving along a bit slower than I expected it to. Is anyone else experiencing this feeling?
Daphne du Maurier
1907-1989

Favorite Quote from the first half of the novel: “A large parcel arrived one morning, almost too large for Robert to carry. I was sitting in the morning-room, having just read the menu for the day. I have always had a childish love of parcels. I snipped the string excitedly, and tore off the dark brown paper. It looked like books. I was right. It was books.” – Mrs. de Winter

I liked this scene so much because I too love to receive parcels, especially those that contain books!

January Read-A-Longs…

Information about Allie’s read-alongs:

“There will be two times to post on the following days:
  • January 14-17, 2011: This post will focus on the first half of the book (roughly 190 pages, or chapters 1-15)
  • January 28-31 2011: This post will focus on the second half of the book (roughly 190 pages or chapters 16-27)”
“There will be two times to post on the following days:
  • January 14-17, 2011: This post will focus on the first half of the book (roughly 300 pages or so)
  • January 28-31 2011: This post will focus on the second half of the book (roughly 300 pages or so)”
“We will have four posts covering the following:
  • January 15, 2011: The first check-in will focus on volume 1. In my edition it is about 295 pages.
  • January 31, 2011: The second check-in will focus on volume 2. In my edition it is about 306 pages.
  • February 12, 2011: The third check-in will focus on volume 3. In my edition it is about 332 pages (the longest section).
  • February 28, 2011: The fourth check-in will cover volume 4 and the 2-part epilogue. These sections are about 282 pages in my edition.”

Checkin In…Bookstore Adventures…

“The weather outside is frightful” in upstate NY! It was 12 degrees on the bank clock when I ran out to the library this morning. It is certainly a good time to curl up with a book! Tomorrow, I have to go for my third colonoscopy in four years so the specialists can take a closer look at the current status of my Crohn’s disease. As this procedure requires that my intestines be “cleaned out”, I will most likely be curled up near the bathroom! J At the library, I picked up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which I have been interested in reading for months now. Some of Henrietta’s cells, now known as HeLa cells, were taken from her cervix without her knowledge and continue to live on by the millions although she passed away almost sixty years ago. These cells have been used to research things such as the polio vaccine, cancer, viruses, cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization. Hopefully this book puts a real face to the famous cells and will be an interesting look at the value of ethics versus that of scientific research.
My thoughts about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love have finally been posted. I am not sure that I have done the book justice. I have always been a fast reader, but it seems that blogging about the books I read may force me to slow down and begin reading in a different way. However, I am still struggling a bit with remembering the thoughts I have while reading and then transferring those thoughts into words for the blog. I am also not a multi-tasker when it comes to reading and writing. I really almost never read more than one book at a time. I may have two books listed under my “currently reading” section, but that means I will be reading them back to back not reading from both at the same time. Posting on my blog may be at a slower pace than some are used to because I find that I have to read one book and post on it before I can move on to start reading the next. I have never understood how easy it is for some people to be reading two or three books simultaneously.
Hence, I am really nervous about my plans for January. I am going to be participating in Allie’s read-alongs over at A Literary Odyssey for War and Peace, The Woman in White, and Rebecca. Saturday, we had to travel about two hours for one of Alexa’s indoor soccer tournaments. On this town’s main street, I spotted a charming little bookstore and found a cheap copy of The Woman in White. Sunday, I popped into Borders because I had a 40% off coupon and $15 in free Border’s Bucks. I ended up getting two CDs that Alexa wanted for Christmas and a copy of Rebecca all for $10…what a deal!
I must confess that I have cheated a bit and read the first few chapters of Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, out of curiosity. Although I am sure that the writer is using a technique to build suspense, I find it troubling that we know so little about the narrator (Mr. de Winter’s second wife). We don’t even know her name and I am having a difficult time picturing her in my mind’s eye.
For the rest of December, my only other plans are to finish up Little Women. I hope you all are having a happy holiday season!