5 Mar 2015

Reread 2015: Emma by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

To say that my book blogging has been patchy of late is the understatement of the year. Speaking of the year, how is it March already? Seriously. One minute I'm ringing in the New Year and the next I'm running around determined to not leave all of my chocolate buying to the last minute. I've actually also been super lazy with my reading and have a pile of about six books on my bedside table, but have some reread reviews of two of my all-time favourite books, Emma by Jane Austen (which I actually reread back in January) and Charlotte Bront

I first read Emma when I was eleven years old. I went on a bit of an Austen binge - having been introduced to Pride and Prejudice by my older sister - and devoured all of her works. I reread it often - I try and reread at least one of Austen's works every year, and last year I reread Emma along with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. No matter how many times I (re)read it, I never get sick of it, and always seem to find something new in the story. It's story-telling at its finest.

Do I really need a reason to reread Austen? Actually, this book was actually the first read chosen for Brain Soup Goes Gilmore (except I couldn't bring myself to reread February's book, The Time Traveller's Wife. That was one of the most overrated books I have ever read in my life, I wasn't wasting time on it again). One of the book club organisers/moderators/discussion leaders, Dayeanne Hutton, played Harriet Smith in YouTube modernisation Emma Approved and thought it would be kick start the club/bring in participants.

I've talked about my issues with Emma Approved as an adaptation of Emma before, but here's the first episode of Emma Approved if you'd like to fall down the rabbit hole:

As a book I reread often, there's not a lot I've forgotten about this book, plot-wise. It's still an incredibly enjoyable read, even with me knowing the plot twist.

I have a lot of feelings about Emma Woodhouse - she's my favourite Austen heroine. Unfortunately, most readers don't love her the way that I do - and I get it. Emma is unlike Austen's other heroines, who are underdogs. On the surface, Emma is snobby, spoilt girl with far too much time on her hands - but Emma is also well-intentioned, and lonely, and loves her friends and family wholeheartedly. Emma genuinely believes that she knows what's best for them, and she genuinely believes that she's helping them. While Emma is incredibly, um, misguided, you can see how one could come to the conclusions that she did - provided one does not have all the information (which she does not). Emma's also a character before her time, with her publicly declaring that she will never marry (which was something shocking, in the Regency period). I'd like to think of her as a feminist character, but really Emma is quite aware of her place within the social hierarchy and does not care to change it. She's aware of her privilege; she's aware that her wealth means she gets special treatment - but she's the Queen Bee, and that's what matters.

Also, that whole Frank and Jane subplot: my favourite part of the whole book. I love it. It never ceases to amaze me how much effort Austen put into her novels, and how finely crafted they are.

I can't remember exactly when I first read Jane Eyre - I believe I was in high school, probably Year Nine or Ten. In the world of British literature, it seems you are either in the Austen camp or the 

I originally wanted to reread Jane Eyre for two reasons: one, I was auditioning for a stage adaptation of it (no, I didn't get cast. Yes, I'm still broken-hearted about it); two, it was a potential February read for Brain Soup Goes Gilmore (it lost out by one vote. ONE VOTE). As I couldn't bring myself to read The Time Traveller's Wife again - awesome premise, poor execution - I reread Jane Eyre instead #sorrynotsorry

Jane Eyre is another book that I try to reread every year, so there's not a lot that I've forgotten plot-wise. It still never ceases to amaze me how in Regency and Victorian-era fiction, every character seems to be connected somehow. You can play Six Degrees of Separation with the characters and connect them with like, two characters. Seriously, you should try it.  

The more I reread Jane Eyre, the more I have reservations about Rochester. He's manipulative and controlling and quite frankly, if I complain about the abusive relationships Twilight - Stephenie Meyer used Rochester and Heathcliff as models for Edward, I believe - and 50 Shades of Grey - which started out as what I assume is badly-written Twilight fan fiction and has moved up in the world to best-selling horse manure with it's own movie adaptation to boot - then I need to wave a red flag at Rochester's behaviour. It's not the healthiest of relationships, and I love Jane for leaving until she feels she's on a more equal footing with Rochester.

And a little off-topic, but... aspiring authors, please note: don't use Heathcliff as a model for your romantic hero. Wuthering Heights is not intended to be a love story. At least, not Cathy and Heathcliff's part of Wuthering Heights. Cathy actually mocks Isabella for romanticising Heathcliff's character, and we all know what happened to Isabella.

 Without doubt.

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