Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë

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.

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

In Cold Blood should be on the curriculum of every single journalism course.
I’m not the first person to make this statement and there is no doubt that I always won’t be the last. But I feel so passionate about this book that I just have to say it, on my blog, to people I meet, to strangers on the tube.
If you love writing, you need to read this book and I secretly hate myself for waiting almost 24 years to read it.

The obsession with killers is still as alive as it ever was. Jake Evans, who murdered his mother and sister, has a fanclub on Tumblr, because he is “misunderstood”. London is constantly naming murderers the new Jack the Ripper in the hope that they will find a story as juicy as Jack again. People love reading and hearing about murders, and the more gruesome the better. The more we can say “Oh God, who would do that? What’s wrong with him?”, the more we read to find out.

And that’s exactly what Capote figured out for his novel: people want to read about murders and know why someone would do that. This information is almost never gathered from newspaper reports, which have to stick to being objective and formal.
Novels on the other hand can explore a range of things that are informal, subjective and great to read. Combining the two meant that Capote found the goldmine of literature.

The book starts off by describing the Clutter family, an ordinary Kansas farming family, that does things we can all imagine ourselves doing; working, romancing, struggling with life and family. However, they are also more kind than most of us are, which strikes a chord with the reader – they are the kind of family you would love to have as your neighbor.

Until they get gruesomely murdered by two men. One, Perry, is thoroughly introduced at the beginning of the book as a nice and misunderstood intelligent man. The other one, Dick, is only seen through the eyes of Perry and scares the reader from the beginning. Something is off about Dick and we all hope and pray that Perry realizes this before they actually commit the murder they talk about.

Without spoiling the book too much, a lot of the tables turn. The murder is not the spoiler, since most people already know the basic outline of the Clutter case. The spoilers are the way the characters are described and the way they evolve.

Capote’s description of the murder of the family might be the most chilling thing you will ever read. It is vivid, without being over the top, and you can imagine it happening to you – which is only reinforced by the fact that the reader knows it is a true story. The murders turn out to be completely different people than you suspected in the beginning and then they are the same again and then they change again… A reader is constantly torn between rooting for them and absolutely despising them.

It won’t be a spoiler to say that almost no characters in the book survive, which makes it really sad to say goodbye to this book. You are introduced to such a wide range of characters, some good, some bad, but all of them so very human that you can’t help but relate to them. And then you close the book and they are all gone. It drained me from my energy for the rest of the day and I needed a night of sleep before I could think about writing a review.

In Cold Blood is a must-read for everyone who loves writing and wants to learn how to write, but prepare yourself emotionally. Capote takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride and makes you doubt what’s right and what’s wrong about the criminal system, life and yourself.