Though fans of the famed Currer Bell
Were abashed to be told, “He’s a gel,”
They got in such pickles
When she wed Arthur Nicholls:
“Bell, Nicholls, or Brontë? Pray tell!”
There are some books I read straight through, almost without taking breath. They mightn’t necessarily be light fodder but the forward impetus or sheer fluidity of the telling discourages me from anything but an immediate and fleeting reflection.
Then there are others which I cannot help but linger over, when I find myself figuratively reaching for the pause button. This is when I slip the bookmark into the pages, search for a pen, and begin annotating in an exercise book. A choice phrase copied, a tentative genealogy, a reminder of an incident in another piece of fiction, a recurrent theme, an inconsistency — all go into a notebook, one of a dozen or so now dating back fifty years, all now grist for a review, an online commentary, maybe a reassessment.
And so to Jane Eyre.
I can’t guarantee I’ll have very much new to say on Charlotte Brontë’s first published novel — one on which much ink has already been spilt — but with the help of my notes I hope to draw out some idiosyncratic threads that I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere in my limited research.
So, what may you have to look forward to, you who are already admirers of the book, or perhaps a meh-sayer, maybe even like me a relative stranger to the times of Miss Jane Eyre? For though I’ve seen the 2006 TV adaptation with the now ubiquitous Ruth Wilson (His Dark Materials) and Toby Stephens (Summer of Rockets), and more recently the Gothick noir Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles movie (1943), neither are substitutes for actually reading the book: how could they, for in my paperback edition the original three-volume issue adds up to 500 pages, not including introduction and notes. An impossible task to condense the novel without shedding, or even shredding, the close-argued text with his long dialogues, detailed descriptions, and thorny philosophical arguments.
As ever, I shall begin with posting a review; this will be followed by a series of posts, rather as I did recently for Charlotte’s Shirley, treating themes I find interesting and responding to any comments you’d care to make.
As for now, I’d be curious whether you follow a similar modus operandi. Do you takes copious notes too? I know many of you keep, as it were, a Commonplace Book — literary scrapbooks, one might term them — in which to record quotes which you may post from time to time. Some may even write fan fiction, prequels, sequels or, now, ‘equels’, to prolong the existences of fictional characters into a literary afterlife.
Or are you one of those who have no need of note-taking as you retain it all in your head, or, unlike me, keep your reviews short and to the point? Do let me know!
Also, have you seen any of the Jane Eyre screen adaptations? Or read Jean Rhys’ atmospheric prequel Wide Sargasso Sea? Pray tell!