I first read Jane Eyre my senior year in high school. I remember enjoying it, but honestly didn’t remember too much about the characters or any of the lesser events in the novel. About a year ago, I watched the new movie adaptation – with Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester (yes!) – and it made me want to reread the book. I’ve kind of been on a Brontë reading kick lately (I recently read and absolutely loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë – check out my review here). When I saw the cover for the new audiobook version of Jane Eyre (read by Thandie Newton), I couldn’t resist. I absolutely fell in love with the book this time around, and I think it was in part because of the excellent audiobook narration. I did – as is my habit when I’m really enjoying an audiobook – pick up the physical book, and alternate between the two so that I could read faster (if you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll see I added both, because I couldn’t decide). But the audiobook was by far my favorite. Which is why I decided to review the audiobook specifically. (I have reviewed a few books I listened to in audiobook form, but I did a normal book review, so this is a bit different.)
In case you are not familiar with the story of Jane Eyre, here is the synopsis taken from Goodreads:
Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
It does good to no woman to be flattered [by a man] who does not intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead, ignis-fatuus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no extrication.
I definitely appreciated the story much more this time around (though that’s probably true for any book I read at seventeen and reread as an adult). I loved Jane’s uncompromising strength, especially given how young and inexperienced she is. I was more irritated by Rochester’s lies this time around, because, really, they’re pretty bad. (I will be reading Wide Sargasso Sea soon, which was inspired by the first Mrs. Rochester, and I’ve heard it makes Mr. Rochester harder to like, so I’m curious to see how I feel afterwards.) And, after studying both Romantic (capital R) and feminist literature, I truly appreciated how groundbreaking this book was for it’s time. I definitely detected themes of both nonconformity and feminism, particularly with Jane. Overall, I loved this book. It’s a classic for a reason. And I can now confidently say that it’s one of my favorites.
Rarely do I specifically recommend that someone read the audiobook over reading the actual book. Personally, I prefer reading books with my eyes rather than my ears. But this one may have changed my mind. Thandie Newton elevates the story through her brilliant narration. I truly loved listening to it. And, since I usually only listen to audiobooks in the car, I found myself taking the long way home, just so I could keep listening. Newton’s voice gave the characters so much dimension, and it was just lovely to listen to. I could listen to her talk all day (and believe me, I almost did with this book). I will definitely be listening again!
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.
I got the audiobook from Audible – which I’ve subscribed to for the past two years, and absolutely love. Click here to check out this version of Jane Eyre. If you’re not a member of Audible already, you can sign up and get one book free! It’s honestly made my long commute to work completely bearable. (And no, I am – sadly – in no way sponsored by Audible and they have no idea I’m writing this post. I just really love it.)