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on March 22, 2017
This was perhaps my mother's all-time favorite book so I heard about it a lot growing up and I saw the innumerable movies. None of them particularly impressed me as anything special, and some were actively off-putting (George C. Scott/General Patton as Mr. Rochester? Seriously?), or incongruous (Timothy Dalton/James Bond as Mr. Rochester).

At any rate, I didn't read Jane Eyre until this year and found myself immediately drawn into the book. The first part, told from a child's point of view, is so vivid, and the character created is so likable that I couldn't put it down. What I found most interesting was how Jane discovers that her curious combination of analytical thinking and emotion-based reactions was intimidating to the adults around her. Some found it "unnatural" while the more simple (like her stepmother) found it "deceitful." Later, we find out that Jane does have a manipulative bent to her nature, but she uses her powers for good. Still, perhaps the adults picked up on her ability to see them clearly enough to manipulate them and found this horrifying in a young child. I found this the most interesting and powerful part of the book. While the rest of it was as well-written, my attention tapered off.

I'm sure that's due to the fact that Jane Eyre had such a huge impact and because of it this once unique romance is now a cliche. At any rate, the plot is a cliche--the poor governess falls for the dark and brooding master with a terrible secret, yet she, with her sweetness and goodness overcomes all obstacles to live happily ever after.

This is an extremely common plot, but I found as I read Jane Eyre that it rises above its imitators in several ways. For one thing, Mr. Rochester is not the domineering demon lover so common to the gothic romance. In fact, I found him a bit of a flippant Chatty Cathy with an amusing, if lightweight, line of patter. In addition, Jane has him figured out from the get go and runs circles around him. She knows who she is, and she has a clear idea of her own moral boundaries that she's created more or less on her own, rather than blindly accepting whatever she was taught as a child. (She saw too much hypocrisy and ineptitude from the adults around her for that.)

Rochester, on the other hand, hasn't the strength of mind that she does primarily because he has no sense of moral boundaries. And he thinks, wrongly, that he'll be able to persuade her, if he just talks loudly, and fast enough, and appeals to her emtions, into spurning her moral convictions.

The real love here is in Jane's understanding of his limitations and the way she often manipulates him in order, at times, to protect him from his selfish, heedless, and impetuous actions.

In fact, what stands out to me in the romance part of the novel is how the main characters take turns manipulating each other. Some of them manipulate entirely in the other person's interests (rather like Andy Griffith's Sheriff Taylor on the Andy Griffith show--and I bet that is the first time in history Andy Griffith has been compared to a Bronte character); while the others manipulate in the more common way of trying to get their own way.

The least enjoyable and yet most fascinating part of this book is the final section where we meet St. John. Here is where Charlotte Bronte's genius is revealed. She first of all shows us Rochester who is openly selfish and flawed and physically unattractive, then she introduces us to St. John who is almost miraculously handsome, is ethically above reproach even to the point of denying himself love for intelligent reasons...and yet he is far more unattractive than Rochester. He is, in fact, a coldly manipulative narcissist.

Without pointing anything out directly, Bronte shows us how Jane reacts to both men. With Rochester she is a strong, vital, charismatic woman who can hold her own and provide support where those she loves require it to combat their own weaknesses. With St. John she becomes a meek, frightened, helpless enabler who almost loses sight of her own convictions in the face of his unyielding self-certainty. The irony for me is that St. John, although representing Christendom, is the real "demon lover" that Rochester is most commonly seen as. Rochester is a flawed human and Bronte never attempts to present him as anything else. St. John, however, is a monster in sheep's clothing. This part of the book was the true gothic part of the novel I felt, since it was the only time the heroine felt helpless and trapped.

Without fail I always find that where the classics are concerned it's like a game of "telephone," where someone says something and it gets passed on until by the time it reaches the person at the end of the line it barely resembles the original comment. My idea of Jane Eyre hasn't survived the actual reading of the novel--and for that, I'm glad. This is a far better book than its imitators make it out to be.
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on March 25, 2017
Emily Bronte's classic tale poses the question whether or not a man can be redeemable who has no redeemable traits except one - that he loves a woman without any boundaries, without any reason, and eventually loves himself, literally, to death over her. Apparently he is redeemable, because Heathcliff has taken his place among the great romantic heroes of literature, and it's a bit confounding how. Except for his love of Cathy Earnshaw, he's a villain through and through - wife, child, and animal beater. I'm also just going to come out here and say that since he tricks his wife, Isabella, into marrying him and then is immediately so awful to her that she despises him, I'm going to guess the sex that produced their son wasn't consensual either. Heathcliff's dark proclivities are given a bit of a pass because he himself was an abused child, and Cathy, also abused, his only solace. But really, he's a villain, not an anti-hero, and yet, somehow, who can forget his love of Cathy? Not too many men will dig up your grave to embrace your skeleton. Emily Bronte was in her 20s when she wrote this astonishing story, and her writing is more experimental and controlled than that of her famous sisters. She eschews the conventions of the day that now date so many classics of the time period - addressing the reader, quoting the Bible, moralizing, extracting poetry for no real reason, bursting into French. Her writing is powerful, wild, tight, and ahead of its time. I can't help but think she might have taken some enjoyment out of the confounded reviews the book received. She seems to have set out to disturb people, and she did. A hundred and fifty years later, it's still disturbing, and yet utterly compelling. And she does all of this by telling the tale from the secondary characters' alternating perspectives, and we never do get to hear what exactly Heathcliff and Cathy did on their own. I'm not sure we need to know. Whatever it was, it must have been mind blowing.
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on September 28, 2015
Be aware that the cover of this book is made to look like a Penguin Classic. It is not a Penguin Classic. It lacks any publisher information.
Also, note the dimensions in the description and you will find that it is more the size of a workbook.
I will return mine and buy the normal sized, Penguin Classic.
review image review image review image
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on January 13, 2013
"Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre" may be so well-known that a review of the stories would be coals to Newcastle, owls to Athens. Thus my comments focus on THIS edition of these two justly loved classics.

Why pay what can be for many of us a lot of money for a book available in paperback, one might ask?

Because a truly beautifully produced book is a thing of joy, forever. It is an enduringly enriching experience to hold a book where the illustrator and the writer are so attuned that one deepens and enhances the work of the other. Remember in "The Wizard of Oz" going from the black and white of Kansas to the color of Oz? Or hearing the Beatles live instead of on Ed Sullivan? That's what a superb illustrator can do.

Because a truly beautifully produced book, with heavy quality paper, strong boards and spine, carefully put together to last is like going into a great museum and being permitted to hold an original, something made with a passion of caring and creation. Such quality honors a great text, reminding us that what is written is not ephemeral but if great---as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are great---can and should be a legacy from generation to generation.

This edition is the best I have seen. It IS a truly beautiful book with magnificent illustrations by Fritz Eichelberger like that of Heathcliffe against a tree with branches twisted by winds whose tumult echoes his soul---unforgettable, haunting. Whether as a gift for yourself or a gift to another, if you possibly can, BUY this edition! Worth every penny and more. As the very old sayng goes,

If of all things you are bereft save one, sell it.
One half for bread and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

This edition will feed your soul.
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on December 12, 2011
(Spoiler)

Wuthering Heights is one of the most perfect novels I have read. Here are my thoughts on what makes Wuthering Heights an outstanding read and why it's considered a classic:

Characterization:

There are no extraneous characters introduced into the story. Each person serves a purpose and is often complementary to another character in the book, like a mirrored reflection or a duality, sometimes the same, sometimes opposing; i.e., Catherine and Heathcliff, Edgar and Isabella Linton, Hindley and Heathcliff, the younger Catherine and Hareton, Mr. Lockwood and Nelly, Nelly and Joseph, the two families at Wuthering Heights and the Grange, the mother Catherine and the younger Catherine, and Isabella and Heathcliff. The relationships among the characters are complicated and evolving. If you were to take one of the characters out of this story, the plot development would be negatively altered. The plot is character-driven and tightly woven throughout the story.
Tone:

The tone of the story is brooding and dark. The sensuous feeling is foreboding, first exhibited in the setting which Emily Bronte describes in detail. There is an element of overarching suspense and aversion to the characters: the morose Heathcliff; mother Catherine who dies of a brain disorder; the drink of Hindley; the tragic life of Isabella following her marriage to Heathcliff; the delightful younger Catherine who succumbs to depression after coming under the control of Heathcliff. The depressing scene and dysfunctional characters that greet Lockwood's arrival prompt him to ask Nelly to explain the history behind Wuthering Heights.

Societal:

I was struck by how Emily Bronte weaves the social status of the characters into the story: Joseph and his barely intelligible English; Nelly, the servant and principal narrator, and her portrayal of others from an inferior social position; the many differences between the upper class Lintons and the middle class Earnshaws; the emphasis on social structure with less opportunity for upward mobility, which impacted the "heart" of the story -- mother Catherine sacrifices her desire for Heathcliff to achieve a higher social status by marrying Edgar. The characters' traits, flaws, and attributes within the structure of society make for believable people that the reader both loves and hates.

Multi-generational:

The differences between the generations were striking: Heathcliff and mother Catherine seemed unable to change with the passage of time or grow as individuals. They were locked into extremisms that became dead-end roads. Eventually, their flawed natures doomed them to early deaths, providing an opportunity for the next generation in Catherine and Hareton to overcome the past. In contrast to their parents, they were able to adapt and redeem the past, and through their transformation, the reader is filled with hope for the future. The multigenerational aspect of time adds to the completeness of the story--this is a family with a history, a past that threatens to destroy the future.

Spiritual/Psychological:

Emily Bronte probes deeply the psychological aspects of people's behavior and the ramifications of the dark side of human nature. The story touches on the spiritual nature of the individuals, with references to the small church, the recurring battle with death, the repeated references to ghosts, and Joseph's incessant recitation of Scripture.

Themes:

The many themes are timeless--love that is forbidden, prejudices that hurt people, the meaninglessness of life without hope, hate that destroys, the vindictiveness of human nature, and the darkness of the soul without God.

Setting:
Established in the first paragraph, a "perfect misanthropist's heaven. " Right away, I am told a lot about this story in a unique way which encourages me to keep reading.

Classic Author Similarities:
I am struck by the fact that many classics, like this one, have been written by individuals who have experienced tremendous suffering. I wonder if there is a relationship between a giftedness to write great stories and the degree to which one has endured hardship. Perhaps the strong emotions that are pent up in a tortured soul find solace in the pen as a healing balm.

Risky:
Creative, original stories take risks. For instance, there isn't one protagonist versus one antagonist in Wuthering Heights. Ninety-five percent of the story is dark and unsettling; the story reinforces negative stereotypical issues and characters. The orphan is the troublemaker and destroyer of the family, perpetuating a common "myth" with adoptees. Joseph uses the Bible in a beguiling way to demean people, contrary to the Good Book's ultimate purpose. The submissive role of women and their inability to escape from abusive husbands or families is also perpetuated in Wuthering Heights, reinforcing the long-held notion that women are inferior to men. Despite these risks, Emile Bronte creates a masterpiece.

Fictional Dream:
Emily Bronte immerses the reader into a world that is vivid and dream-like, with colorful characters and a complex plot. She uses literary techniques that make this is a compelling read, one worth pondering after the last page is finished. It's a shame she died so young--what other books might she have written?
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on April 12, 2013
Wuthering Heights is the most melancholic novel I have ever read from the genre of historic romance novels. Indeed, there is hardly anything romantic about the novel, although it is focused on a forbidden and doomed romantic relationship. Wuthering Heights strips away everything good and decent about humanity and leaves the reader with the horrific actions of unlikeable creatures--yet a tale that cannot be unfinished or unforgotten.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte follows the fate of Heathcliff, an orphaned boy who is adopted by the father of Catherine, with whom he falls in love, and Hindley, whom he rivals for paternal affection. Although Heathcliff and Catherine are in love, Catherine decides to marry Edgar Linton, a gentleman with social standing, which forces Heathcliff to leave for many years after vowing revenge on Catherine, Edgar, and Hindley. Upon returning, Heathcliff seduces Edgar's sister, Isabella, steals the estate of a drunken Hindley through gambling, and reduces Hareton, Hindley's son, into a servant. Although stricken into a mad grief by Catherine's death, he does not hesitate to arrange the forced marriage of her naïve daughter, Cathy, and his sickly son, Linton. What remains to be seen is if any humanity can be salvaged from the horror.
I loved Wuthering Heights so much that I wept for the early death of Emily Bronte after discovering that it was her only novel. Although the tale is so complex that I needed to draw a relationship, it is an important aspect in order to understand the motivations of the characters as it illustrates how isolated the people of the moors are. Wuthering Heights shows the brutality of human nature in a way that doesn't exclude anyone. Reading it is like watching a car crash--although sadness and heartache will follow, the violence cannot be avoided.
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on May 20, 2011
When Wuthering Heights first came out, readers were shocked by the violence and the passion of its story, that is the strange romance between the mysterious Heathcliff and Catherine Earnchaw, the daughter of Mr. Earnshaw who adopted Heathcliff. The scandal was so much that Emily Bronte, when she died, thought that her book was a failure. Fortunately for her, and for its first readers, the story's reputation grew among literary circles, became an important reading for people like Virginia Wolf, and even became a movie in 1939, starring the great Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. As such, the book's reputation has now become an important piece of art around the world, influencing important artists in their works (ex:Jane Campion's The Piano, J K Rowling's Harry Potter, etc.)

Most people tend to focus solely on the romance between Heathcliff and Catherine and they tend to think that the story is simply a love story, which is what they did with the Laurence Olivier movie. However, Wuthering Heights must be considered, at least that's what I think, as a tragedy which shows how a simple act of kindness from a good man brought forth discord, jealousy and a story of revenge whose victims, the Earnshaw and the Linton families, soon suffer the wrath of someone who never received the most decent sense of love. Not only that, Wuthering Heights shows how certain families, in distant regions positioned far from big cities, act between themselves as they bring upon each other their own laws. Having had grandparents who lived in regions resembling as much as the moors surrounding Wuthering Heights, I wasn't that much surprised by the cruelty that some of the Earnshaw and the Linton brought forth on Heathcliff.
So for me, that book, was a pleasure to read again and again.

One thing that surprised me with this book is how Emily Bronte managed to transcript the dialects of the countrymen of that region. Indeed, certain character's dialects are written according to how the characters pronounce them. Though reading it straight on for the first time, might be difficult, I suggest to those that may be rebuked by this type of dialogue transcription to read the dialogs aloud. To me it felt much more easier to understand certain conversations and have more pleasure reading that book.

As such, I recommend this book to everyone who would be interested to read a great piece of literature or to discover the original material that brought forth the movie adaptations that they love to watch and rewatch.
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on April 19, 2016
Tragic tale written by a young woman who led a tragic life.
Better edited than Jane Austin's insipid story.
Romantic?
Not my kind of tale.
The girls in my English literature class all read it and gave boring reviews.
Now, aged 71, my assumption of a patheticly emotional cripple in the guise of Jane Eyre is confirmed.
But I do see her desperate grasping for love, given it's absences at most stages of her life.
I also realize that perverts lusting after girls, instead of adult women, were as common in her time as now.
Today Mr. Rochester might be charged with secual assult for lusting after such a young thing had she entered his home begore her 18th year. I still find him disgusting and a pervert.
Dr. Phil would rip him apart!
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on July 6, 2016
This book was full of big literary words and complex descriptions. One could really learn something about writing from reading this book. The actual storyline is another thing, however.
I had great heart for the love story in the beginning of this book. It was captivating and interesting, though I felt like it had been undermined in detail and voice. It ended abruptly and instead turned to Heathcliff's progression into lonely violence and longing. I felt as though the book focused on the wrong characters- Heathcliff should have definitely of had more page time. The love story between Heathcliff's son and Catherine's daughter is a replay of their parent's once vibrant love, but had fallen apart just like theirs had. It gives the reader the feeling that the inability to relate and understand each other is rooted in their genes, so the two families might never find true love despite their passion.
I debated whether or not to consider this book 'on my shelf' (would read again) or not. Through the whole story, I felt like something was missing. I could not decipher what. The author seemed to have been holding back on something in the beginning but the plot had gone wayward from her original idea, and she was no longer able to express it. This alone prevents me from giving it five stars and leaving it 'off my shelf'.
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on February 28, 2000
You know all those 'classic' novels you read in high school? How many of them do you actually remember? Well, if Jane Eyre was one of those long-forgotten books, pick up a copy. To read it as an adult is a joy: it's a sweeping, disturbing, intense, thrilling, very romantic gothic love story, written in the voice of a very intense, almost claustrophobically self-aware young heroine. Jane is no Ophelia - she's a complicated, remarkable character, and a very strong female character in a genre that usually draws women as beautiful victims at best.

There's something for everyone in this book: Windswept castles, difficult and neurotic family members, dark secrets about tragic former lovers, good triumphing over evil, all that good juicy stuff that makes a great romantic story. What elevates Jane Eyre is Bronte's remarkable style & skill and her sharp and complex characterizations.

Trust me on this: If you don't remember it from your teens, you should give it a try now. Here is one novel that more than lives up to it's 'classic' status.
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