Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Raised by her haughty Aunt Reed, Jane Eyre grows up knowing nothing other than a rigid harshness from both her distant relatives and the strict Lowood Charity School. Even through her rough childhood, Jane manages to maintain her integrity and spirit with the secret wish that things can only get better from here.

When she is hired as a governess by the dark and brooding Mr. Rochester, Jane finds her life taking a turn, for the better, worse, or both is unknown. Driven by her inner, unspoken desire for wider and richer love than Victorian society traditionally allowed, Jane must struggle between her own longing and moral standards in an attempt to find the best of both.

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Excuse the heavily influenced Goodreads description, but WOW!

This is my new favorite classic book. Unlike many other classic books in which many chapters go on with nothing actually happening, Jane Eyre is beautifully paced with a well though-out plot and memorable characters.

The beginning was not exactly slow, but a little confusing as to how it fits in with the rest of the story. It makes sense later, it sets up a lot of inner struggle further on in the story.

The writing style made me think very much of Emily Bronte, their tastes in guys was evident. There were also several parts in which I wondered if Dickens had co-authored in several of the brilliant, diabolical scheming scenes.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Violence: 3/10 (there was only maybe three short parts which are very creepy; I wish I could say why, but that would ruin the entire story!)

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 3/10 (hello! This is a romantic classic, although nothing inappropriate ever actually happens)

Audience: Ages 14 and up, mostly just for the more difficult reading level.

Now excuse me while I go watch the movie……

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Wow. I am going to have a bear of a time trying to sum this up.

Heathcliff, an orphaned gypsy boy, is taken in by the rich Mr. Earnshaw and his family. Catherine Earnshaw, at the time around 10 years old, almost immediately befriends the boy, and as they grow up together Heathcliff and Catherine become more and more obsessed with themselves; however, while Catherine is liked by all, Heathcliff becomes more and more distant from the civilized world. It is only Catherine who seems to care about him, and vice versa.

Ultimately, even after Catherine is gone from the world, Heathcliff is haunted by her memory, and his passionate vengence on the world is finally unleashed to repay everyone for all that he has suffered.

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Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Honestly, I thought this was a romance story. In the end, although there were many weddings, many deaths, many dramatic scenes of utter silliness and tantrums, there was only one actual romance. No one actually lives happily ever after, thanks to Heathcliff, who seems to be involved in some way to all the people who died. Died of a broken heart, died of fright, died of a cold they caught while out on the moors running away from Heathcliff, etc. etc (well okay, maybe that last one was a bit of an exaggeration).

It’s important to know that this story is hard to summarize because so many things happen in a very long amount of time. The whole story altogether is set in a 20 year span.

While Heathcliff is described as the main character, I would say that Catherine the 1st and Catherine the 2nd were the main characters. The book is seperated into two sections: section one, how everyone started out, ending with Catherine the 2nd being born, and section two was about Catherine the 2nd putting up with Heathcliff’s misery, which seems to be randomly unleashed on whoever seems to vex him. I kept trying to come up with a pattern to who he actually hated, but it never in the end made sense.

Even though Catherine and Heathcliff’s love and passion for one another was evident in one chapter, it never made sense to me why, in the end, Catherine married Edgar Linton, their neighbor. That doesn’t exactly scream ‘romantic’, especially since she was perfectly happen with Mr. Linton. Heathcliff was enraged when this happened, and thus began his life of tyranny. At one point, in like the second to last chapter, it actually ran through my head that Heathcliff might be demon-possessed.

I’m still trying to figure out what kept me going through this book. Maybe it was because I was sure there must be some happy ending, in which I suppose there was a bit of happy ending (if you consider Heathcliff dying a joy, then yes, it was a happy ending). I think it may have been Emily Bronte’s writing; I thought the actual writing was rather good, even if none of the characters had any real redeeming qualities and the plot was pretty twisted. The reason I give it three stars and not less is probably because I applaud the author for making me think I liked the book while I read it. Until I actually got to thinking about it once it was finished.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Violence: 3/10 (Heathcliff is very violent, and beats several people, including his wife who runs away the day after she marries him)

Language: 2/10 (no actual bad words, but I’d rather not repeat them)

Innappropriateness/Romance: 2/10

Audience: Adult (while a kid could read this, none of it would make any sense at all, just because of the plot. I thought, for a historical novel, it was very understandable; Bronte doesn’t use a ton of huge words that I don’t understand, like Melville or Austen)

 

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

When Catherine Morland, a rather plain, ordinary 17-year old girl in Regency England, is invited to go to Bath with some friends, her world seems to completely open up. So many people to meet, places to go, balls to attend, dresses to buy, and men to flirt with!

Upon meeting a most handsome (and eligible) bachelor, Mr. Henry Tilney, Catherine is thrilled to accept an invitation to stay at his estate, Northanger Abbey, with him and his sister for a few weeks. An abbey! Just like so many Gothic novels Catherine reads, she finds herself swept away in her own fancies and assumptions that, eventually, may cause more trouble than you would expect….

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I have some praise in the writing and some complaints in the plot department for Northanger Abbey. In the praise section, Jane Austen is still a fun read, no matter what the story. If you enjoy classics, then you might enjoy Northanger Abbey. If you have not read many classics, you probably won’t.

In general, the actual plot doesn’t begin to show until more than halfway through. Once arriving at the Abbey, the story is more interesting, if you can get past her time in Bath.

Overall, I don’t think this was my favorite Jane Austen novel. I found Catherine to be a very immature, self-centered girl in her assumptions and thinking (very similar to most girls today) and was very narrow-minded about life in general, her only concern being in her appearance, her ‘friends’, and whether or not she would ever see Mr. Tilney again. Frankly, if you are concerned that you might not ever see a person again, why bother?

I was actually a little disappointed in the inevitable ending, just because I liked Mr. Tilney so much. He was so sensible, as opposed to Catherine. I wanted more for him, but that apparently was not what he wanted for himself.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Violence: 0/10

Language: 1/10 (Lord’s name in vain, and it is implied that there is swearing)

Inappropriateness/Romance: 4/10 (just flirting and falling in love; it is Jane Austen, for Pete’s sake!)

Audience: Adult (or younger, depending on the individual)