Hello. My name is Chris, and I’ve never read a Brontë before. Well, up until last month, anyway. I had always put all those Brontë sisters in the category of stodgy old stuff I was supposed to read but didn’t want to. But I recently tackled Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and though I won’t say it was all easy going, I am glad I did it.
My previous exposure to 19th century British fiction mostly involved Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, both of whom I love. I had always avoided Brontë books because of my perception that they were nothing but epic-length bodice-rippers. While I can’t really deny that Jane Eyre is, in many ways, an epic romance, I was happy to discover that there was a lot more to it than that.
Written at a time when women were treated as second-class citizens in every way imaginable (the Brontës even published using male pseudonyms), Jane Eyre herself is a strong female hero. She gets herself out of one bad situation after another: a neglectful adoptive family; an impoverished, disease-ridden boarding school; and bad relationships. While the book is without a doubt Victorian in form, Jane Eyre herself is a woman with modern sensibilities.
That said, I’m still thinking over the end of the book (spoiler alert: Reader, she marries him), and trying to figure why anyone who locked his crazy wife in the attic would make good husband material. So when I found out that Jean Rhys had written Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966 to tell the story of said wife, I read that next. And it was fabulous.
One of my goals for 2015 is to be more intentional about my reading. I want to get out of my comfort zone, try something a little different, read things I’ve always avoided. It’s kind of like food. I always hated Brussels sprouts as a kid, but tossed in some balsamic vinegar with red onions and slowly roasted? Love ’em now.
(And they’re good for you.)