This is an important book for any reader or writer of historical fiction because it is the cause of all of the references to the “Crazy Wife in the Attic.” But more than that, it’s a truly beautiful book. It take a little while to get into because Jane goes on and on about her fairly tragic (she is one of the many orphans in literature) and strangely dull childhood for about 10 chapters, but once she arrives at Thornfield Hall things become very exciting very quickly. First we have a strange little french girl of unknown origins and a maid who speaks not a word of English. Then we have a crazy maid who laughs in a disturbing manner. Then Jane happens across a mysterious stranger who can’t stay on his horse and mistakes her for a fairy. Then the mysterious stranger turns out to be her mysterious employer who demands her attention and pushes her away in turn. Mr. Rochester goes on to tell this sheltered eighteen-year-old governess all about his exploits and how Adelle may or may not be his spawn, and the next thing you know he is nearly burned to death in his bed! (I love a good fire in a gothic novel!) He continues to be very intense and distant at turns, bringing his ex-girlfriend over to come and mock Jane and then posing as a gyspy-woman to try to ascertain her feelings for him. Then he shocks everyone by asking her to marry him, but, of course, he has a crazy wife locked in the attic, so–
But this is a review, not a summery, so I digress.
Bronte is able to create characters with depths and levels that are so vivid that they have fascinated readers for decades. This is a must-read for anyone who has not already done so and a must-re-read for anyone who hasn’t done it in a while.
On a side note, the movies are also wonderful.