Secondary genre: historical romance
Format read: audiobook
CW: racist/antisemitic remarks, child abuse, ableism
It almost feels unfair for me to review this book, as it’s a re-read for me and one of my all time favorite books.
Jane came into my life at just the right moment, as books sometimes do, and it has shaped so much of my adult thinking and my writing. I related so much to poor little Jane, abused by her peers and her teachers, largely alone in the world even when surrounded by people.
As this is a classic, I will skip over the bulk of the plot summary, as it can be found literally anywhere online, including Google and Wikipedia.
However, this time was a little different, as I noticed more of the subtext. I’ve read this book so many times, but up till now it’s always been in my mostly white, mostly Christian hometown, and the last read through was about 3+ years ago.
This time, I noticed how many comments Jane and Rochester make, using comparisons to people of color or Jews (negatively)*. I also noticed how awful her cousin John is, which is not something I realized when I read the book the first time. But when I look back, I see that he shares many qualities with people who abused me when I was younger, so his judgmental, controlling nature was something I took for granted.
Still, I find that it’s a story of hope and independence. While it has its problems, it’s remarkably forward thinking for the period in which it was written. Not perfect by a long shot, but it still strikes a cord in my heart, and I will never let this book go.
*This is actually pretty fascinating because the book was written not so long after slavery was abolished in England and its colonies, and the pro-slavery camp started spreading all sorts of racist rumors to further their cause. For more information on this (including a fascinating discussion of whether or not Mrs. Rochester was mulato (mixed race), please see this series on youtube. Please note there is a fairly high rate of white appologists in this particular documentary.