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Showing 1-10 of 3,741 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 5,894 reviews
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 April 23, 2014
If you haven't read it in a while, it might be time for a re-read. Jane Eyre is modern in that she is remarkably strong-minded, she loves passionately, and she learns to accept her less-than-perfect looks. She makes something of herself despite tremendous obstacles, in a time when educated women of the peasant class were not at all common. All this and the book has a delicious dark mystery to savor. I had to take off a star, though, for the dismissive treatment of mental illness. Of course, that is the way things were in those times, but it is painful to be reminded of how mental illness strains the capacity to be and to be treated as human.
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on February 9, 2017
It's been 40-plus years since I first read Jane Eyre. I was interested in the romance then--and it was in there somewhere.

This time around is different. This is a story about a strong woman being herself in times when strong women were frowned upon. The degree to which she remained true to herself throughout her many struggles is truly remarkable. The writing, is grand; the vocabulary will test you; the detail is almost overwhelming at times. Those long, intricate conversations.... Mr. Rochester is no longer the romantic hero, but a self-involved and prideful man who thinks he is above a lot of things including the law. Thankfully, he is finally humbled and, one hopes, becomes the respectful and honoring husband such a character as Jane deserves. For anyone who read Jane Eyre in their teens/early 20s, it is worth a re-read.
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on March 1, 2017
When I started reading this book, I found it supremely boring (no don’t kill me yet, hold your horses), and it was a struggle to keep at it. In fact, I would have certainly DNFed it, if not for the fact that I was buddy-reading this book with Bookish Muggle, and I really did not want to let her down.

It’s the only reason I bothered to drag myself through the initial few chapters. And no, I am not saying it was all dreary, there were certainly sparks of excellence, but for the most part I was bored out of my mind.

So from that kind of a beginning to now, when I’ve finished the book, and I’m obsessed with it – it’s clearly been quite a turnaround, and now I can’t imagine giving this anything less than 5 glorious stars.

Sure, most of this has to do with a terrific second half, but in hindsight, I can see how the first half was as vital as the second to this wonderful wonderful story. Without the backstory, the second half wouldn’t have had the kind of impact it did.

This one truly is a masterpiece, but I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up a bit here.

Jane Eyre

I know many people view this as an epic romance, a timeless love-story, and while it’s definitely one way of looking at it, I view this more as a ‘life story’. The tale of the evolution of a strong and independent female protagonist, a 19th century feminist, who was light years ahead of her time.

I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.

The author utilizes the first person narrative, which creates a high degree of intimacy with the character; it made me feel like I knew Jane as well as she comes to know her own self. And the more I knew her, the more I liked her.

I am not saying I agreed with everything that she thought or did. For instance, she sure had a strong moral compass, which is great, but was a little too preachy at times. And no, I am not judging her for that, just saying. At any rate, none of us can claim perfection, so I can hardly expect that from her.

Having said that, I do envy her strength of character in the face of tragedy and temptation.

Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?

She did not to let love justify all the mistakes and wrong choices, and refused to let it blind her to everything else that was important for her sense of self-worth. And I LOVED her for this unwavering determination to stay true to herself!

I wish I could have declared with any degree of confidence that I would have acted in a similar manner too, but in all honesty, I cannot say that. Which is why I found her to be a very brave soul, to deny the first glimpse of happiness that she found in her life, which had so far essentially been one long tale of woe.

Read full review at SHANAYA TALES DOT COM.
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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 February 3, 2017
I first read Jane Eyre in high school. Of all the required reading I did in high school, it was one of my favorites. Flash forward a couple of decades, and I thought it was time for a re-read. Charlotte Bronte's novel hadn't lost its luster.

I recently read Erin McCole Cupp's sci-fi retelling of Jane Eyre, The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan. (It's available as a series of e-books - Unclaimed, Nameless, and Vanished - which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.) After reading the modernized adaption, I was eager to re-read the original.

Here's where having a horrible memory pays off: I was able to enjoy details on the third go-round that I'd missed before or long forgotten. Additionally, reading Cupp's adaption brought new insights into the characters, circumstances, and salient points of Bronte's classic.

To me, Jane Eyre has what it takes to keep me re-reading. A strong heroine whose self-deprecation and poverty (not necessarily monetary poverty) make her relatable. A firm moral backbone. A bit of mystery with some surprising twists. And enough of the weird and eccentric to spark curiosity and interest.
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on July 11, 2014
My favorite part of the novel was the time Jane spent with the Rivers'. Though I didn't know that these people would ultimately turn out to be her relations, there was an easy, comfortable homeyness to their relationships. I also enjoyed how St. John was, aside from marriage, able to get the better of Jane. I say this not so much that I felt Jane needed any due, but rather because she, as written, had no real faults. This lack of fault in Jane, aside from a stubborn streak, is in part what keeps the novel as a whole from being a true masterpiece; the other nibbling quibble I have is Charlotte's inability to fully describe a setting better than a rough sketch.

I could better forgive the later (the sketchiness of the descriptions) had Jane been someone who was not so astute, so observant, and also so taken by passion. I could also better understand it had Jane not been an artist. Yet this inability of the author to really let us see (see better than Mr. Rochester in the finale) coupled with the fact that Jane isn't an unreliable narrator - people who are mean to her are not because of any oversight of her's, they just ARE bad people - all this weighs the novel down and keeps it from rising to what I was expecting to be a much more brilliant novel.

Jane's lack of faults and an overall lack of any sense of humor in the story (I can't have more than passingly chuckled only a handful of times, and then it probably wasn't even intentional) makes the novel a bit dull. Not even the unending pun of Jane (as in one who is plain) and Eyre (as in air, ire, heir) could get a rise from me.

Yet when the story is really going, when Jane is as passionate as the terrible weather that soaks every page with rain and snow and storm, when things are hot, the novel is really good and it's hard to not get caught up in it. I did believe she loved Mr. Rochester and I believed he loved her.

But what I loved was the complicated relationship between her and St. John. I liked him even better than strange, ugly Mr. Rochester because he was flawed in a way that real people are flawed. He was sort of unbearable, intolerable, proud, and haughty. Add in that he thought himself blameless, that he believed his name was already written in God's book, made him interesting - more interesting than Jane or her cousins.

In fact, Olivia, who loved St. John but whom he denied, as nice but dim as she was, served as sort of a metaphor for what a person the author didn't believe people should be yet made Jane, in many ways, just as dim and dull.

As for the tendency towards melodrama in the novel, I kept wondering if Charlotte was writing a novel she was hoping to see herself in or was speaking to some greater truth of the human condition that 150 odd years since its writing no longer is able to get across well. There are moments, especially the fire at the end that are so over the top that the novel felt indulgent, however, it was such a good scene that it was entertaining. I wonder if Charlotte was just trying to spice things up a bit after pages and pages of interesting, but rather long-winded dialog.

I do understand that the novel has political and social consequences that in their historical context are quite important, and as a feminist tract this novel is very important in the western tradition. However, with fresh, modern eyes, I never felt that Jane was doing anything worthy of even a mild blush. No consideration was made for what other people in the novel felt about Jane's situation so to learn that the novel was met with social resistance is purely a matter of the times the novel was written, an interesting societal footnote, but not at all indicative of the text on a larger scheme. There seems to be little intention on Charlotte's behalf to 'shock' readers otherwise she would have put Jane's travails in a larger, more controversial frame.

To better explain, it's like talking about very early season episodes of The Simpsons: they were controversial at the time but there is nothing controversial in them, they just caused an uproar because they showed a rougher side to family humor. It was much ado about nothing.

And so I feel too is Jane Eyre: much ado about nothing.

Yet I did really enjoy the novel too. The endless dialog was, unlike Dostoevsky, never dull, seemed natural, and never dragged even when it was far from brief. Characters seemed most 'in their element' when conversing and when the story demanded action that Charlotte didn't take into melodramatic waters, the situations were very interesting, such as the death of Mrs. Sarah Reed (another great character). Here the novel shines and though there may not be anything earth-shattering in its observations, that's not what the book was going for. Charlotte wanted to draw us in, make us live with these people, make us feel that love she felt, and in that regard I was quite convinced.
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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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