18 February 2014
Why it has taken me this long to read Jane Eyre
I knew this story well having watched it in various versions and I've practically memorised every inch of the BBC miniseries from 2006. But the novel... What can I say? What a beautiful read. I want to read it again. Straight away. Which is unheard of for me.
My recent enthusiasm for J.E. did raise the question amongst at least a couple of my friends as to how I'd got this far without having read it until now. Well, I blame it on 1986. And 1985.
High school was full of required reading and it was during this time that I read Tolkien for the first time. After that I went to university to learn to be a teacher, but did an Arts degree alongside that qualification. I recall standing in the queue at enrolling time, still undecided about whether to take literature or history. I was one person from the front of the desk when I ticked the literature box. That was the mistake for 1985 because had I done my research I would have discovered that my chosen university didn't take a particularly classical approach to literature. They were more into feminism at the more radical end of the spectrum and Freud.
In 1986 I enrolled in a year long unit call The Theory of the Novel (mistake number two) which involved one novel a week, starting with Don Quixote and finishing with whatever what modern at the time, all viewed through a Freudian lens. Oh joy. Not. In addition I took another unit each semester which also had a reading requirement of one novel per week. That's two novels a week. I ended up reading the novels I needed for essays and tutorials in full and otherwise, lots of first chapters, last chapters, random middle chapters, introductions and journal articles, learning to chip in with some intelligent comment based on my limited reading early on in the tutorial before the discussions got beyond me. And I learned to hate reading.
In 1987 I only had two more units to complete my literature requirements and I chose poetry because poems are much shorter than novels. And the lecturer was old school. Not sure how he came to have a job at this particular university but I was sure glad to have found him.
After that I became a Christian and so I read the Bible and Christian books. I added professional reading to that and the newspaper to keep up with current affairs then eventually I dipped my toe tentatively back into the pool of fiction, starting with Brideshead Revisited. Mostly I read whatever was good and current. All the Pretty Horses, The English Patient and Captain Corelli's Mandolin spring to mind. There was a Thomas Hardy phase at some stage.
Then all that stopped and suddenly I was reading books about how to care for babies and how to live with toddlers and how to force said toddlers into eating vegetables. I like Christopher Green's take on baby and toddler wrangling the best, for what it is worth. And I read recipe books. And magazine articles because my concentration span had shrunk to nothing.
And so I missed the classics - the ones that were not covered in high school at any rate - and as it transpires, that is fine. Because there are so many wonderful books for me to read now. And I am very happy about that.