Right around page 200, when Mr. Rochester impersonates an old gypsy woman, Jane Eyre sunk it's claws into me. I couldn't stop reading this book - in the bathroom, waiting in line for a sandwich, on various modes of public transportation, very late at night, over breakfast - Jane Eyre and I have been inseparable these past few days.
I overcame with ease my baser nature in order to love this book. I skimmed over the narrator's recurrent use of the verb "ejaculated" to describe people rushing in and out of rooms, or conversing, (words ejaculating from one's mouth) with nary a Beevis and Butthead snicker. I didn't trip over Mr. Rochester's way of calling Jane his "little friend" (are you not my little friend?), which seems oddly contemporary ghetto to me (like, if I started dating one of the construction workers on my block, maybe he'd call me his little friend?). And let us not forget that I publicly advertised my passionate reading of a book with this cover:
Another member of my book club read the Penguin edition with this cover:
Notice that Jane Eyre looks like she could be attractive in this edition - maybe if someone took the doily off her neck, and put her in a dress that had less of a parachute effect. This book club member finished the book nearly six weeks before I did. Dear Reader, is there a connection?
Jane Eyre is ugly. Mr. Rochester is ugly. But it doesn't matter, because they see each other as beautiful / handsome. This is true love, which is, after all, blind. Jane is sensible enough to know that Mr. Rochester is not a handsome man, or even a moral man, but she comes to love his every imperfection in a way that turns it into a fetish. We've all turned this corner before in relationships - where it becomes impossible to see your lover's receding hairline, or ability to spend an entire Saturday without leaving the couch as anything less than adorable.
Jane Eyre became a powerful aphrodisiac for me, as it accomplishes what most contemporary romance novels don't. In category romance the hero and heroine are younger and way more attractive than the reader could ever hope to be, and have only minor baggage / issues. The real difficulty, as a writer, is coming up with a reason for these two characters, who are obviously perfect for each other, to stay apart / hate each other for most of the novel. In Jane Eyre, Rochester is married to a lunatic, so obviously they can never be together! They are totally hot for each other, but all these morals and bigamy laws get in the way. So much sexual tension = so much gratitude for twenty-first century relationships.
Another thing I really came to love was Jane Eyre's no nonsense attitude. Rochester tells her she's beautiful, or compliments her and she's like, I know I'm plain, and I'm over it, so stop flattering me, let's talk about something else, okay? And the narrator really doesn't let you forget that Jane isn't cute. She reunites with a nanny she had as a child, and the nanny says something like, wow, Jane, I thought that maybe you would bloom into an attractive woman when you grew up, but what a disappointment that hope turned out to be. Or when Jane's recuperating with the Rivers, and she overhears Mary and Diana talking about how ill-planned her face is. She never lets this get her down though.
So, I have to say, Amanda, wherever you are (probably Chicago), I get why this is your favorite book. It's not my favorite book, due to some pretty serious nineteenth century pacing issues in the first 200 pages, but I get it. I get Jane Eyre. In a photo finish I completed it a mere day before the Book Club Deadline, July 15th. And it felt good.
I'm gonna go rent the movie now.