Turned out to be one of the greatest books I have ever read. Leslie on Jane Eyre
By Leslie Clague
Finding classics on the home shelves
On my home book shelves I have stored books — some classics, some recommended, some gifted – that I’ve saved for “when I have time to read them.” Despite the busyness of retirement I have been finding time now to read some of these preserved items.
Two classics read in the last few months are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Erewhon by Samuel Butler.
Blush. Hard to admit, to confess, being a history major at university with a minor in English not to have read Jane Eyre – especially being a girl. I did read Wuthering Heights, but I don’t know, I was pulled towards Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and American stuff rather than classic Bronte literature.
The wonders of Jane Eyre
Turned out to be one of the greatest books I have ever read. It gives good moral ground in the story. The character development is superb. Plus it provides some edge of the seat, what’s going to happen next stuff, rather like a great who-dun-it than a romance. Some bits made me cry, which tells me I am reading something special.
My apologies to all Bronte enthusiasts for being so slow in discovering this masterpiece.
Warmed by this experience and after a non-fiction selection or two, I moved to Erewhon. I was keen to read this classic that takes place in New Zealand, now my home country.
Trying to connect with Erewhon
It opened well in its description of the land travelled to, the journey over the Alps to meet these strange peoples, the Erewhonians. (I love that Erewhon is nowhere spelled backwards.) And then I lost it.
I know Butler was writing a satire on 18th century thought in England. I was expecting something maybe like Gulliver’s Travels, but I simply couldn’t connect with this book. “The Book of the Machines” chapters probably touched me the most as our current culture confronts some of the outlined issues. But, no, sorry Mr. Butler, I didn’t get it.
There is a 70’s saying: “Expectation leads to upset.” Perhaps this is what happened here. I expected ‘ho-hum” from Bronte and fun with Butler; I experienced the opposite.
The joy of discovery through reading
Still, the joys of reading, the art of reading, the journey of reading – growing, learning, experiencing – may it never end. And so very special to be able to cross centuries and connect. Or not. Both novels can be downloaded free from the internet, or if you are like me and prefer paper, your local library should be able to assist.