#42 Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

English: Title page, first edition, en:Jane Eyre.

I’m going to assume I’m not the only person who hates it when an author ruins a perfectly good premise. Jane Eyre is, IMHO, the perfect case-in-point. Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of that famous family of authors, decided to defy the “rule” that only a beautiful heroine can be interesting by writing a heroine who was (GASP) plain.

And then she went on to repeat, every ten pages or so, how unattractive Jane is. It is that relevant to the plot. Or perhaps, by Brontë’s estimation, our imaginations need constant reminders to work properly.

I guess we’ll never find out.

Jane spends a lot of time at the beginning of the book with her uncle’s family, who are MEAN, and in an orphanage, where everyone is ALSO MEAN. Then she becomes a governess and meets Mr. Rochester, who is NICE. (Relatively, I mean. He’s really not that nice.) The two of them fall in love, and everything is great—except for the noisy ghost upstairs that everyone pretends not to notice.

On the day of their wedding, the ceremony is cut short when Mr. Rochester is accused of bigamy. Turns out his wife is still alive—the original Madwoman in the Attic. Why he did not see this coming is as inexplicable as the sudden appearance of the deranged wife.

Jane wanders England and eventually lands, by pure coincidence, on her cousins’ doorstep. Shortly after dodging a marriage proposal from her icky cousin, she reunites with Mr. Rochester, now blind. Turns out, that crazy wife of his set his house on fire and committed suicide. So, yeah.

Moral of the story: Jane is ugly. But you already knew that.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time? 

“Great” is a bit strong. It would definitely go on my list of the Most Mediocre Books of All Time, though.

Favorite Quotes:

I ask you to pass through life at my side—to be my second self, and best earthly companion.

Read: 2002

#39 To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

I can’t bear to spoil To Kill a Mockingbird for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, so this one will be brief. This book is funny and touching and thoughtful and achingly well-written. Framing the story from a child’s perspective was a stroke of PURE GENIUS, and Atticus Finch is the stuff of legends. He negates ALL THE LAWYER JOKES EVER and makes me wish I had someone to sue.

This quote from the book actually sums up my feelings tidily:

Miss Caroline came to the end of the story and said, “Oh, my, wasn’t that nice?”

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

Oh, my, yes.

Favorite Quotes:

I told Atticus I didn’t feel very well and didn’t think I’d go to school any more if it was all right with him.

Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of settling slowly to the bottom of the ocean. He was the most boring child I ever met.

He declined to let us take our air rifles to the Landing (I had already begun to think of shooting Francis) and said if we made one false move he’d take them away from us for good.

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Do snakes grunt?

As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

Read: 2003, 2007