Friday, March 18, 2011

"Such a Little Toad as That"

Toad in the root cellar 2
Photo Credit
Here, finally, is my first post about Jane Eyre. Between teaching, grading, coaching speech team, working on my online class, and trying to prepare for the licensure exams that I am required to take, life has been quite busy the last few weeks! I have been reading Jane Eyre steadily, and I am relishing each chapter. I was thinking a few days ago that this is one of those books that I would love to read again for the first time, especially now that I am older. Rereading this novel has actually been quite emotional for me (even more so than in the past), and the maturity and life experiences that I have gained since I last read it (EIGHT years ago...why did I wait this long to reread it?) have made for a rich reading experience.

Warning: there ARE spoilers in this post. If you haven't read this novel, know that key plot points will be revealed. Read at your own risk!

Part of the reason that reading Jane Eyre again has been so emotional is because of what I realized about Jane's time at Gateshead. I realized, for the first time, that Jane is who and what she is because of her treatment at Gateshead. I knew her family hated and mistreated her, but it is only on this rereading that I realized that Mrs. Reed, and others, had in large part turned Jane into the miserable, unlovable (in their eyes), defiant, and frightened child that Mrs. Reed so hated and punished.

Ironically, if Mrs. Reed had kept her promise to her husband to raise Jane as her own child, she never would have hated or abused Jane. fragile Photo Credit
All Jane wants from her aunt and cousins are love, attention, and affection, and those are the things that she can never get from them. Part of the reason going to Lowood is such a relief for Jane is that, despite the abuse, harshness, and mistreatment she experiences, she has excaped from the singularly cruel, soul-shrivelling hate and spite of her aunt.

I shuddered at the descriptions of Lowood School before and during the typhus outbreak, but it was the scenes at Gatehead that truly broke my heart. I wanted to reach into the novel and wrap my arms around small, bitter Jane Eyre and assure her that she was valued and loved. I wanted to give Mrs. Reed a piece of my mind and encourage Bessie in her small kindnesses toward Jane.
Guatemalan Hug
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It surprised me how few chapters Gateshead and Lowood School encompassed. It demonstrates Bronte's brilliance that she could make such a small portion of her book so vivid and horrific in my mind on my first readings of the novel that I believed that these were long, drawn-out chapters. Similarly, Bronte shows that Jane believed that most of her life and important moments occured in or because of Thornfield. She did not dwell on her early childhood because the meat of her story was about what she did after (and often because she had learned the lessons of) those early experiences. These experiences serve to show the contrast between Jane's dehumanizing, demeaning childhood, and the precious, value-affirming months that she spent at Thornfield. Is it any wonder, then, that she considers Thornfield (but really Mr. Rochester) her true home or that it nearly kills her (and definitely breaks her heart) to do what she knows is right and leave when she discovers the truth about Mr. Rochester?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Read-a-Thon is Coming! The Read-a-Thon is Coming!

It's that time again: Dewey's 24 hour Read-a-Thon fast approacheth! I am super excited about parcticipating for the third time, and I plan to be caught up on my grading and planning so I can enjoy as much reading time as possible. April 9th, here I come! Woo hoo!

In other news, I was quite sad to learn that none of the movie theaters here in town will have Jane Eyre when it opens on Friday. I think it's because so many of the Oscar movies are so new to town (we definitely don't open everything on the opening date here because we're on the smaller side of things), but I did have my heart set on seeing Jane Eyre this weekend. Maybe I will have to console myself by seeing The King's Speech again...

I had planned for this week to be Jane Eyre week on the blog, but I've been trying to get caught up on my grading so I don't have to do it over Spring Break (NEXT WEEK!!!!! WOO HOO!!!!! I will not say woo hoo again in this post...). This means there have been few brain cells left at the end of the day, and what brain cells are left can only handle 30 Rock and Lady Emily Ashton Hargreaves' adventures.

Finally, it has been snowing the last few days. We haven't accumulated much, but the mere fact of snow in mid-March is insulting. Especially when it is very wet snow that will only increase our chances of The Biggest Flood Ever in this area. So if you haven't seen snow for a while, be thankful!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Well, Hello, (Blogging) World

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I was doing so well with my bloggy New Year's Resolution to post at least once a week, but then I got OWNED by a nasty flu virus (I like to think it was a mild form of the bubonic plague) that made me miss work for an entire week. All of my fellow teachers out there know how ridiculous it is to try to come up with meaningful sub plans, so you know I was really sick if I stayed home for a whole week. Further proof I was really sick (aside from the fact that I couldn't really stand up or eat all week)? I didn't even want to THINK about a book for almost the entire time I was sick. And that, my friends, is serious. I am NEVER not reading, so to not read for almost five days was a pretty good indication of how icky I felt. Long story short, I finally recovered, but between playing catch-up, trying to grade all the meaningful things the students did while I was gone, and coaching and travelling with the speech team, there just hasn't been time to blog. There's barely been time to read!

Okay, on to the bookish bits! Thanks to said plague, I didn't get much reading done in February (I read three books instead of the eight that I read in January), so I'm going to do some mini reviews of the books that I've been reading in the last month.

I signed up for Laura's readalong of Jane Eyre and then promptly failed to post on any of the posting dates. This is okay, however, because Laura intended the readalong to be pretty loose and informal. I have read Jane Eyre before (see here if you would like the story), but it has been at least eight years since I have read it (that's a long time!). I picked up Jane Eyre when I was starting to feel alive again after being sick but wasn't quite back to normal. It seemed like the perfect comfort read at the time. Being eight years out from my last reading has lent great richness and joy to my current reading of Jane Eyre, and as it is one of those Books That Define My Life, I quickly realized that it would need more than one post. I'm thinking of making this week my unofficial Jane Eyre week: the new adaptation comes out on Friday, and I would like to finish reading it before then. So look for lots of Jane Eyre love this week!

The three books that I actually finished in February were part of Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily Ashton series. I found these thanks to how much I loved Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey mysteries, and I am beginning to think that historical mysteries, especially those set in 1800s England, could be a new genre love for me. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, And Only to Deceive, and I liked the next two that I read, A Poisoned Season and A Fatal Waltz. Reading A Fatal Waltz was especially fun because it is set in Vienna, and Lady Emily visited a lot of the places that I visited when I went to Vienna to visit my awesome friend Anne. While I enjoyed these and found them to be nice, fluffy distractions from the craziness of my everyday life, I couldn't help comparing them to the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, which are infinitely more inventive and entertaining. The third Lady Emily mystery, Tears of Pearl, confirmed my opinion that Lady Emily is a poor man's Lady Julia. I almost never give up on series, but I'm not sure if I'm going to read the last Lady Emily mystery. We shall see...

My most enjoyable read of February was A Tree Grow in Brooklyn. I actually listened to the audio of this book. I didn't particularly like the reader, but the story was SO GOOD that I couldn't stand to give it up. Eventually I got used to the reader, and everything was hunky-dory. The reason I enjoyed this book so much was because of the character of Francie. You know when you read a book and you find yourself? This happened for me with Francie, especially in the way that Francie loved to read. One scene in particular struck me as finding myself: early in the book, Francie takes her library book (she reads a book a day) and some favority candy out onto the fire escape of her apartment. She puts her pillow down, arranges her bowl of candy, and settles under the shade of the tree to read the afternoon away. I used to LOVE to do this when I was little. I particularly remember one Saturday (I'm not sure how I got away with this as Saturday was chore day...maybe I actually cleaned the bathroom in the morning like I was supposed to...) that I spent reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I read all day, curled up with my pillow on the floor of my bedroom, and I vividly remember having a bowl of pretzels that I ate while reading; I don't think I ate anything else all day. I loved the book, and I know I will revisit it. If you haven't read it, you MUST! I can't believe I went this long without reading it.

Finally, when I was thinking about what I wanted from this year in reading, I knew that I wanted to reread some favorites. So far, I have only reread one book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I read this again because of Angie's lovely review of the book, and it was just as delightful the second time as it was the first. I am currently rereading The Poisonwood Bible, another favorite, for my book club. My next reread will by Possession, which is a rich, wonderful, meaty novel by A.S. Byatt.

That's what February looked like for me. Let's hope for a better, flood-free March!