There is such a fulfilling feeling after reading a classic. The feeling that you finally belong to a club that so many people already joined. Suddenly, a world of word-puns and movie-references open up to you.
"You're dating such a Mr. Rochester." "Haha, yeah..." (Wait, what? Who is Mr. Rochester? Was he our gym teacher in high school?)
Finally, I joined the club. I moved from the "I can never finish a classic"-club to the "I know what you mean with 'a Mr. Rochester'!"-club. It's a good feeling and the moment I finished Jane Eyre, I was elated and proud.
But then an eery feeling set it: Was I just elated because I finished the book and conformed to what society thinks I should read or because I finished a book that I actually really enjoyed?
In the case of Jane Eyre, it's hard to decide.
The outline of the story is well known to most people: Jane Eyre is an orphan who ends up as a governess at Thornfield Hall. The house is owned by Mr. Rochester, an older, and rather cold, gentleman. Through ups and downs, Jane and Mr. Rochester fall in love. But as always, things are not as simple as they seem.
When I started the story, I really got into it and fell in love with Jane. Her childhood is awful, but somehow Jane does learn how to stand up for herself. I even would say that she was a feminist, and just generally a humanist, for that time.
Then Jane goes to a boarding school and I really got into the story. The characters she meets there are interesting and well developed. Especially Helen Burns, an older student who takes Jane under her wings, is forever a favorite of mine. Jane stays at the institute, Lowood, for 8 years and those 8 years fly by in the book. No unnecessary details, no boring blabbing, just plot element after plot element.
I loved it and I loved it even more when I discovered that this speed is kept throughout the whole second half of the novel too: the part where Jane arrives at Thornfield Hall.
Where I started to lose my patience with this novel, is the point where Jane decides to leave Thornfield for several, and way spoilery, events. She wanders around and God, reading it felt like I was wandering around aimlessly too. Too many descriptions, too much unnecessary conversation, too much like a Jane Austen novel. I must admit that I skimmed from this point on, until the last 30 pages, when a plot twist makes everything interesting again.
Jane captured my heart in this novel and, even though I despised Mr. Rochester, there is definitely something very romantic about this book. However, it just doesn't captivate me like so many other books do. Is it the old English? Is it because it's talking about such a remote world? Is it because Mr. Rochester was a bit of a prick?
I think it was all of the above combined. Added to that, I often got lost in Jane's thoughts. She went back and forth about things so many times, that she confused me. This meant that I had to get out of the story and really think about what Jane was doing. I was judging Jane at times and I don't want to judge my protagonists - I want to enjoy them. I want to start reading and keeping going and going until I'm completely sucked in the story. Because of Jane's quirky ways of thinking, I just couldn't do that.
So who should read this book? Everyone, like myself, who wants to join the "I read classics"-book club. I've read Jane Austen, I've attempted to read Vanity Fair, but none of those books read as easily and entertaining as Jane Eyre. So I think this is a great book to get your feet wet in the classics. However there are so many books and our lives are so short - I wish I would have spend the time reading a book I truly enjoyed, instead of reading something because "everyone reads it".
But that fulfilling feeling when ending these 400 pages? That was priceless and I would almost consider reading a classic again - just for that.