Monday, July 16, 2007

What Took Me So Long?

Have you ever come across a book that you enjoyed so much that you can't believe it took you years to actually get around to reading it? For me the book is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

I was first introduced to the novel's existence during my senior year in high school, thanks to a bookish classmate. For a period of about two weeks, I would often see Carolyn* with her nose in a well-worn paperback book. She would read that book on her way to class, devour it along with her cafeteria-issued lunch and simply immerse herself in whatever world the author had created. When I finally got a look at what she was reading, I was immediately turned off.

"'Jane Eyre'," I thought to myself. "Why is she wasting her time reading a romance novel."

Being the kind of gal who would much rather read a good Agatha Christie mystery -- Oh, OK. I'll admit it. I also used to read teen staples like Seventeen magazine -- I was repulsed by the idea of actually reading a romance novel. I didn't care if it was on the recommended reading list my English teacher once distributed in class.

Fast forward to a month ago.

On a trip to a used-book store, in search of various children's books, I came across a copy of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. I smiled as I remembered how much I enjoyed that book as a young girl, and how much time I used to spend at the library. That got me thinking about my English teacher, his recommended reading list (Charlotte's Web was on it) and, of course, Jane Eyre.

I walked over to the literature section and found one remaining copy of the classic. I picked it up and gazed at the cover art depicting a young woman in mid-1800s garb, looking over her shoulder as if she was searching for someone -- or maybe even trying to make sure she wasn't being followed. I wish I could say it was only that recommended reading list that prompted me to actually buy the book. No. It was also that illustration (and the fact that the book was only $2) that motivated me to take it to the checkout counter.

I was drawn to Jane Eyre, the character, from the very first chapter. The book that I had always assumed was purely a romance novel turned out to be something even more. Yes romance is a part of it, but so is mystery, suspense and the theme of perseverance amid hardship. I actually found myself unwilling to put the book down when I was called away because I cared about Jane.

By the time I finished the book I was hungering for more works by Charlotte Bronte. I thought about what a fool I had been for avoiding this "romance novel" for so long. You would think I would have learned from my original misguided perception of Jane Austen's work. I once avoided Austen's books because I thought they too were purely romance novels.

I'm glad I finally read Bronte's classic, even though I read it more than 20 years after I first learned of its existence. Reading it was one of the best book decisions I've made. Hmm ... I wonder if I still have a copy of my English teacher's list of recommended reading.

*Her name has been changed to protect her identity.


Momma Roar said...

You know, this blog isn't going to be good for me - it's just gonna make me want to read more - which I don't have the time for - so then, my TBR list will be getting longer. Did you ever read Atwood's book I mentioned in yesterday's comments? She talks a lot about Jane Eyre - one of the characters is reading it - I wish I would have read it first to have understood more of the book.

Momma Roar said...

Oops - that should be Diane Setter*field's book - The Thirt*eenth Tale - just in case any who are reading wanted to check it out.

Momma Roar said...

Guess what book I just rec'd in the mail?

Jane Eyre - I ordered it from PaperBackSwap. I don't know when I'll be able to start it - but its here now. :D

Btw, if you are interested in the other book I mentioned above, let me know!