May 4, 2011

About Books Blog 39: The Illustrated Jane Eyre


Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Classic, Gothic Romance

Favorite Line

Two favorite quotes.

"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs."

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."


Young governess falls in love with her surly employer, only to discover he has a deep dark secret.

What I Thought Of This Book

I read Jane Eyre for the first time when I was twelve. It holds many good memories for me. I remember exactly where I was when I first read it, and how I felt about it at the time. It became one of my favorite stories. I was inspired to re-read Jane Eyre when I discovered a version with illustrations by Dame Darcy. I just had to have it. It took me awhile to get around to it, but since I am returning to the classics this year, I knew it was time.

As I said I read this a couple times as a teen, but this was the first time I have read it as an adult. I found that being older allowed me to have some different observations. It caught my attention was how well the story crosses over in terms of genres. It is not only a romance with gothic themes, but a coming of age story as well. I also took note of how themes of morality and religion filtered into the story. It was something that I not only found interesting, but rather admired. I realized one of the reasons the story is so accessible to me is that it is an extremely intelligently written classic novel, but it feels like a contemporary novel.

When I was younger I was more focused on the plot. As an adult I noticed more about the characters. I noticed how confident and independent Jane was. Maybe that was just a facet of her personality I had forgotten over time. She suffers many trials in her life, but you never feel like she is a damsel in distress. She is a character that was quite ahead of her time. I also noticed that my beloved tortured soul Edward Rochester is a little on the weird side. He does these truly amusing eccentric poetic rants. Sometimes you have no idea what he is talking about. It’s hilarious. He’s not your average classic love interest. I suppose that’s part of his charm. I think I was more captured by the love story between these two people this time around, because I could understand better why they would be attracted to each other. Jane can balance out Mr. Rochester’s moods and general semi-bipolar behavior. He offers her his ability to treat her as an equal, and enjoys the fact that she is an independent intelligent woman with an amazing capacity for kindness.

I love Jane Eyre as much as ever. The lovely pictures make it even better. Whether you are a fan of the book already or a first time reader, The Illustrated Jane Eyre is a must have.

The Illustrations

The creative illustrations included in this addition of the novel enriched the story more than I thought they would. In the story, Jane often draws or paints. Illustrator, Dame Darcy occasionally includes her interpretations of drawings described in the novel. Her style is so interesting to look at. For examples of the artwork and Dame Darcy's inspiration for the illustrations click HERE.

Facts I Found Interesting

The book was originally published with the title Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Charlotte Bronte published it under the pen name Currier Bell.

In 1966 author Jean Rhys published a parallel novel entitled Wide Sargasso Sea. The novel acts a prequel to Jane Eyre, depicting the life of the first Mrs. Rochester. I haven’t read it, but it does sound interesting.

The Movies

Jane Eyre has been made into many adaptations. This includs not only films, but also television mini series and stage musicals. I have not seen all of them, but watching adaptations of Jane Eyre is one of my little obsessions. Below are my thoughts on the ones I have viewed along with links to IMDb for all the extra information.

The 1944 version took quite a few liberties with the events of Jane’s childhood and some of the events at the end the book. It is fairly true to the plot and dialogue where the middle is concerned. Which I suppose is the important factor anyway. The lovely part of this version is the beauty of the look of the film. Shot in black and white the light and shadows created by the lighting design gives that foreboding mood you want for Jane Eyre. This is your one pit stop to see many of the great child actors of time Margaret O’Brien, Peggy Ann Garner, and Elizabeth Taylor. Joan Fontaine and Orson Wells play Jane and Mr. Rochester. They are not exactly who I would have casted for the roles. However, they are so incredibly interesting to watch. That almost makes up for my little issues with their looks and portrayals. Overall, it was fun and entertaining to watch. If you like classic film you should try it.

I discovered this little treasure by accident while looking around on Netflix. I’m so glad I did, because I think it is my favorite adaptation so far. It may not be the most picturesque adaptation. It definitely has that 80’s TV mini-series appearance. None of that matters to me, because everything else is so close to perfection. They captured almost every nuance of Jane Eyre from the choices of scenes to the dialogue. The story is allowed to span for eleven parts, so there are very few changes or eliminations to the original tale. Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke interpreted the roles of Jane and Rochester in just the right way. Zelah Clarke performed all of Jane’s facets wonderfully. It would be easy to fall into playing Jane either too modest or too headstrong. I thought she found almost the right balance. Perhaps too soft around the edges, but close enough. Timothy Dalton was an awesome Edward Rochester. He didn’t make the character so bitter that he lost all the great irony that the character can have. Some people say this version is a bit on the soap opera side. I have to say, lets face it the novel Jane Eyre is a bit on the soap opera side. Think about it epic love, epic betrayal, discovering long lost family, etc. Anyway, I loved it. The best I’ve seen so far. Of course, I haven’t watched the 1973 and 2006 mini-series adaptations yet.

This was the first adaptation of Jane I ever watched as a pre-teen. Thus, it has a place near to my heart. In re-watching it, I realized it is only okay. The cinematography is effective, but not really anything overly exciting. The dialogue is alright. They rather warped the ending, but what feature length version of Jane Eyre doesn’t. Some Jane Eyre enthusiasts have said that the casting of William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the leading roles was wrong. I don’t agree with that statement. I think they carried out the roles well. It’s just that the performances aren’t anything to write home about. The portrayals give enough to carry the film, but the little nuances aren’t there. I do find the performance of a young Anna Paquin as Jane as a child quite lovely though. In fact, most of my favorite parts of the film are about Jane’s childhood. Overall, it is a quality adaptation but it doesn’t have the wow factor.

This was watchable. It certainly wasn’t terrible, but far from being a favorite. The general plot remained intact. However, I disliked many choices. What bothered me most is that the characters were not represented in any way close to what is depicted in the novel. Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton are excellent actors, but I did not feel they suited the lead roles well. They made Jane and Rochester on a completely too bitter, headstrong, and argumentative. This subsequently made characters I love hard to relate to. It also lead the viewer to believe that the two characters drawn to each other by more of a sensual attraction. While the book expresses that, their love is built upon a meeting of equal minds and spirits primarily. It doesn’t help that whoever wrote the script mutilated the dialogue. I know not all my favorite lines from the book are going to make in the movie, but I do expect a few important lines to be said. I also expect the ones created by the screenwriter to be things the character in the book would actually say. There were a few things that I found good about the movie though. Most notably the use of voice overs by Jane to give insight to her thoughts, which gave the film the memoir feel the book has. I also though it was nice that they allowed moments where Mr. Rochester was caring towards his ward Adele. As I said, it’s nowhere near being my favorite. I think they tried to hard to modernize a classic.

This new adaptation has a different approach then most versions. It begins with the events in the last third of the novel, and carries out the rest of the tale as Jane’s flashback. I found that very creative. It had beautiful cinematography and sound design. Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender did good portrayals of the leading roles. They are very good at playing a scene. What I found amusing about the Jane Eyre is that all the actors injected a bit of humor into their roles. I don’t think any version made me laugh like this one. I still had issues with the 2011 Jane Eyre. I never thought I would say this, but the film almost focuses too much on Jane and Rochester. This caused all the Gothic and mystery elements of the story to end up in the dust. To me they missed a great opportunity to build tension in the earliest parts of the film. In addition, I felt like they dwelled on the scene of Jane crying on the rocks for a small eternity. Then we had to watch that same scene twice, because of the flashback element. It became truly tedious. I didn’t like how the end was done either. I like the way other versions have done the ending much better. Overall, it was good but not great. Actually, the thing I liked best about seeing the film was my friend Natalie’s amusing commentary though out the entire viewing. Her thoughts on Mr. Rochester’s surly personality: “Man, dude needs to get some Skittles so he can taste the rainbow.” Hilarious!

Music To Read By

Favorite Albums

I was surprised by my favorites. I thought would like something more classical, but it fact I ended up liking very contemporary music. I have to say my first favorite was Fallen by Evanescence. I guess its semi dark themes and larger than life sound seem to fit the Gothic romance genre. I was also extremely fond of the album Extra Virgin by Olive. I don’t know why I liked this one. I suppose I liked the melodies while reading. In addition, I took the opportunity to listen to the Jane Eyre Musical soundtrack. While perhaps not my favorite, I did hear a few songs on it that I liked.

Jane Eyre Playlist

Orphan Girl - Gillian Welch
Motherless Child - Sweet Water
The Diary of Jane - Breaking Benjamin
Sirens - Jane Eyre Musical Cast
The Minnow and The Trout - A Fine Frenzy
The Heart Asks Pleasure First - Micheal Nyman
Lovesong - Adele
Bring Me To Life - Evanescence
You're Not Alone - Olive
The Scientist - Coldplay
Lullaby - Dixie Chicks

Oh my gosh guys! I finally posted this after promising it for something like five weeks. First I got writers block. Then this review took on a mind of it's own and decided to be an epic length. I hope you to enjoyed despite how long it is. I guess I had a lot of thoughts to put down. See you later. Keep it shiny!

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