Here is my joke about having lived this many years with no Eyre. No seriously, why did I not read Jane Eyre sooner? Charlotte Bronte has given this world a masterpiece and from the moment I finished reading it, I really haven’t been able to live without Eyre! This past month has been a hurricane of adaptations, online lectures, podcasts, essays, and blog posts concerning this wonderful text. Needless to say, my first reading month has started like straight fire.
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
What is a more learned word for ‘weird’? Frenchman’s Creek is that word.
Lady Dona St Colomb is bored. She is so bored of her husband that she must leave London and stampede across the country to his estate in Cornwall. When she is there, she finds that the manservant has not kept the House to any level of order and a French pirate has been stirring up trouble in the neighbourhood. The Frenchman is wicked, froggie, and all alluding, except that Lady Dona is able to find him almost immediately—because he has slept in her very bed and his ship is idle in the creek at the bottom of her estate.
Frenchman’s Creek has all the makings of a fine tale but du Maurier does not paint her characters serious enough to be believable. The writing is superb; deep, dark and swooning (without the romantic connotations) and perhaps Bronte-esque but a trifle more experimental. Unfortunately, the novel bounces back and forth between the ‘I-can-slightly-believe-this-is-happening’ to the ‘this-is-complete-bogus’, and then very much settles on the latter. Nothing was used to bind this swashbuckling novel together; you could say the narrative in itself was inherently swashbuckling and very unfit to be honed in. I cannot, in all honesty, come away from the novel and think that any of these characters existed outside of Lady Dona’s ringletted head.
Still, there is so much quiet genius in the writing. With a little more searching, I might find my perfect match in Jamaica Inn or Rebecca.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I have read Jane Eyre. It was good. But now, I do not even remember what words are. Mine have been consumed by a crashing wave of awe. I can only live the rest of my life as an automaton; I do not function unless it is to serve the ghost of Charlotte Bronte.
This novel is not only a masterclass of English literature but it is one of the greatest novels that this Earth and its people have ever seen. When I finished the last page and I put the book down, my mouth dropped in amazement and I remained blinded for some time– not in the same fashion that Edward Fairfax Rochester was blinded (I do not have a maniac in my attic), but I was blinded by greatness. True, boundless, inexorable greatness!
Jane Eyre is an orphan and she is left, by the last request of her dying Uncle, into the hands of her Aunt, the wicked Mrs Reed. Mrs Reed is utter slime, so are her three children and they despise Jane with so much fervour that there is nothing left to be done than to send her away to a charity school called Lowood. There we see Jane in her founding years, and her impassionate soul leads her into the heights of womanly occupation; when she leaves Lowood she becomes the governess to the ward of the (very Byronic) master of Thornfield Hall, a Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for an embarrassing length of time; I feel this is because I was already familiar with the events in the novel, including the gritty mystery. I have come out the better for knowing, but now I am aware that only knowing the plot of this story, in any capacity, is to grossly simplify what you are about to undertake. Charlotte Bronte has created a masterpiece, deserving of every bit of flattery that has been bestowed to it. As soon as she starts to describe the moon, or the moors, the moths, the lightening or the crags—oh! the crags! you fall head over heels in love with her writing. The characters are propelled by feeling and create a world so visceral that you become trapped between the end papers, not daring to pull yourself out. Bronte puts to words the feelings in which you thought yourself to be the sole owner, that you alone had experienced what it was like to be so low, or to feel with as much desire or to burn with a duty so torn between flesh and spirit. The text is not light of heart and does a colossal job at consuming your own.
My copy exists in three volumes and by the end of the second, when Jane departs from Thornfield, there is still a large chunk left to be read. When I saw just how much, I thought that the last volume might run out of ground to run on. After all, by that point we have seen where the novel must end, the resolution is given and then taken away, but by the rules of the narrative, we know that we must end in the same manner. Instead of the last volume working against the novel, it does the opposite. This is the source of genius, you come to realise that what has come before has merely been the prelude, that everything has been working towards what these final chapters provide. The character of St. John Rivers is moving. The coda combines a Jane and a John, an Eyre and a Rivers, a crossing of virtue and temptation. If Jane’s life was wreaked with treachery before, she deals with a higher form of it here.
Jane Eyre is bountiful in unexplored territory of the heart. I can without a doubt say that it ranks in the top two of the greatest novels ever written; Jane Eyre shares a place with Moby Dick. But which is better? Do we pick the one that came first? If so, I cannot bring myself to check the answer.
If you have read any of these novels, I would love to know what you thought of them! You can comment down below or you can chat with me over on my twitter, if you click the link here you will magically apparate there.