Monday, August 10, 2009

Jane Eyre

I'm attempting to rectify some longstanding gaps in my literary education. This year's reading list includes Crime and Punishment, Tale of Two Cities, and Three Men in a Boat. And I've just finished Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

As a modern librarian, I "read" Jane Eyre in multimedia fashion. Most of it I either read in the free Kindle app on my iPod or listened to via a recording from Librivox, which produces free downloadable audiobooks of public domain literature. When I actually had time to sit in my living room, I read a hardcover copy from the library. Although I found the Victorian prose slow going at first, I warmed to the story and the character of Jane, particularly as voiced in Elizabeth Klett's wonderful reading for Librivox. Klett's Librivox works have a lot of fans.

I was ready for the prototypical gothic romance, the brooding Rochester, the star-crossed love. I wasn't expecting the proto-feminism, accompanied by deft attacks on religious hypocrisy and rigid ideas of predestination. Jane is a fascinating character with a terrific story, told by a skilled and insightful writer.

Having finished the book, I had to check out the screen treatments, and there are quite a few -- IMDB lists 21 different versions, including feature films and mini-series. So far, I've watched the 1944 Joan Fontaine & Orson Welles version, which was interesting, but at 97 minutes glossed over or elided some significant aspects of the plot and was not altogether satisfactory. Better was the 1983 BBC mini-series with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton, which included sufficient detail and was well played by the leads.

I'm looking forward to seeing some other adaptations, and reading more by Charlotte Bronte. I'll probably re-read Jasper Fforde's wonderful Eyre Affair, the first Thursday Next novel, now that I'll understand more of the allusions.


Melle P. said...

The 1996 Franco Zeffirelli version of "Jane Eyre" is a little melodramatic but beautiful.