Tag Archives: Charlotte Bronte

J is for … Just call me a quitter

I tried, I swear I did. J looked like it was going to become another H for me. I started a couple of books but they really weren’t to my taste. So I then cast about for recoemmendations. My excellent mother made the excellent suggestion that I read Jane Eyre.

Now, for some background on this, I have two degrees in English and the number of works of classic literature that I have NOT read is surprisingly legion. In mitigation I will point out that there is an awful lot of very fine, well-regarded literature out there in the English cannon. I don’t think I’ve been slacking. I’ve even started Jane Eyre several times, I’ve just never been about to get past that dreadful boarding school. I even tried watching the film a couple of years ago and fell at the same hurdle. It’s too dreary for words.

So, fabulous, here was a fine opportunity and a motive to fill this aching gap in my literary knowledge. I skipped the first few chapters to avoid the horrible school and settled down ready for things to become interesting.

Cover of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre
It was even more dull than this cover. I’m not even going to link to Amazon because if you want to read this book it’s my duty to save you from yourself.

Oh, how I wish they had! Why is this a classic? Whyever do people like it? Jane and Rochester are held up as icons of romance – they should be in therapy.

I struggled to see the appeal on any level. Was it the impenetrable prose that never feared to use twenty words where one would have sufficed? Perhaps it was Rochester’s breathtaking arrogance and superciliousness; his callous treatment of both the poor mad wife and Jane herself; or simply the fact that he spoke like no human being I’ve ever heard of. Maybe readers are seduced by Jane’s casual racism, or the fact that she has nothing good to say about anyone save herself. Or they are simply swept away by the romance of the most bizarre marriage proposal I’ve ever heard where the intended bride changes during the conversation.

I tried, I really did. But I abandoned it at 70% and consider I’ve done far more than my duty. I can’t wait to move on to my K book.

So, berate me, readers, and tell me (if you can) why Jane Eyre is a classic that deserves my respect!

Books unread

If books create a whole new world for readers to enjoy, then some books stand out as landmarks, familiar spots we can all relate to as a shared experience. Not to have read these giants of literature (if you are a person who reads) becomes a cause for surprise and even concern by others – akin to visiting Paris and not stopping off at the Eiffel Tower, or going to Egypt and not taking in at least one pyramid.

I read voraciously, and I’m also well-educated in English with a couple of GCSEs, an A-level, and both Bachelors and Masters degrees in the subject, but still, famous and much-loved books that I haven’t read litter my reading world like craters.

Perhaps my biggest omission (since there is always an element of romance in everything I write) is Jane Eyre. And I have tried, I promise. I’ve started the book several times, but I’ve never managed to get past the awful school scenes. The other great I managed to elude throughout my literary education was Dickens. I finally read Great Expectations about two years ago because, mostly, I thought I should. I did finish it, but frankly can’t recommend it since whatever has made it appeal to generations of readers passed me by entirely. Hardy, too – I love his poetry and short stories, but I’ve yet to battle to the end of one of his (dreary, I’m sorry, but there, I’ve said it!) novels.

I used to feel bad about these gaps, but they don’t bother me any more. That I’m reading is the main thing, what I’m reading is … well, it’s down to taste, isn’t it? Everyone’s reading world looks different, so if I don’t mind the craters scattered around mine, I bet they don’t bother anyone else, either.

Please, join me in confessing the greatest books you’ve never read. What do you pause and think you ought to read, before passing on to what you want to read?