It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

January 26, 2015 What are you Reading 20

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

An Untamed StateAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a powerful new literary voice whose short stories and essays have already earned her an enthusiastic audience. In An Untamed State, she delivers an assured debut about a woman kidnapped for ransom, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over thirteen days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath.

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

Broken HomesBroken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

My name is Peter Grant, and I am a keeper of the secret flame — whatever that is.

Truth be told, there’s a lot I still don’t know. My superior Nightingale, previously the last of England’s wizardly governmental force, is trying to teach me proper schooling for a magician’s apprentice. But even he doesn’t have all the answers. Mostly I’m just a constable sworn to enforce the Queen’s Peace, with the occasional help from some unusual friends and a well-placed fire blast. With the new year, I have three main objectives, a) pass the detective exam so I can officially become a DC, b) work out what the hell my relationship with Lesley Mai, an old friend from the force and now fellow apprentice, is supposed to be, and most importantly, c) get through the year without destroying a major landmark.

Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

A mutilated body in Crawley means another murderer is on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil, who may either be a common serial killer or an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man — a man whose previous encounters I’ve barely survived. I’ve also got a case about a town planner going under a tube train and another about a stolen grimoire.

But then I get word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans, and inhabited by the truly desperate. If there’s a connection to the Crawley case, I’ll be entering some tricky waters of jurisdiction with the local river spirits. We have a prickly history, to say the least.

Just the typical day for a magician constable.

Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.

What Are You Reading?

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All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

January 24, 2015 Contemporary, Evie Wyld 21

All the Birds, Singing by Evie WyldTitle: All the Birds, Singing (Goodreads)
Author: Evie Wyld
Published: Random House, 2013
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Jake Whyte lives on an old farm on a small British island, tucked away from the world with her disobedient collie named Dog. However when her flock of sheep start dying from mysterious and horrific circumstances, Jake has to engage with the rest of the island in order to find out what is happening. All the Birds, Singing is about running and hiding from the past and dealing with isolation and loneliness.

The novel is told in alternating perspectives from the protagonist. One follows everything that happens after finding one of her sheep dead from mysterious circumstances. The other works backwards from that point and explores Jake’s past and why she is running away from it. It is a unique way to tell the story but it also serves as a metaphor for the way Jack is trying to distance herself from her past. However, while reading the novel, she also realise how much the past effects and stays with her, no matter how hard she tries to escape it.

It feels like Evie Wyld has an interest in the outsider and exploring a disconnection from a place/society. There is a struggle between Jake’s need to make a connection with her need to isolate herself from the world; this is what really captivated me about this book. Wyld was born in Australia and now lives in England and I am curious if this theme is something she has struggled with herself. I have heard her first novel After the Fire, A Still Small Voice deals with similar themes but I don’t think I will know for sure until her planned graphic memoir is released later this year.

All the Birds, Singing is a beautifully lyrical and atmospheric novel that deals with some pretty heavy themes. I put this novel off for so long, mainly because it won the Miles Franklin literary award and it was getting far too much attention. However it was picked for my book club in the middle of 2014 but because I was in America while this was happening I missed the chance to read and discuss the novel. I finally decided to pick up the book and I was blown away, so much so that I am giving it away (open internationally) as part of the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop.

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

January 19, 2015 What are you Reading 11

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

The Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Translator: Hugh Aplin)*

Mikhail Bulgakov’s devastating satire of Soviet life was written during the darkest period of Stalin’s regime. Combining two distinct yet interwoven parts-one set in ancient Jerusalem, one in contemporary Moscow-the novel veers from moods of wild theatricality with violent storms, vampire attacks & a Satanic ball; to such somber scenes as the meeting of Pilate & Yeshua, & the murder of Judas in the moonlit garden of Gethsemane; to the substanceless, circus-like reality of Moscow. Its central characters, Woland (Satan) & his retinue-including the vodka-drinking, black cat, Behemoth; the poet, Ivan Homeless; Pontius Pilate; & a writer known only as The Master, & his passionate companion, Margarita-exist in a world that blends fantasy & chilling realism, an artful collage of grostesqueries, dark comedy & timeless ethical questions.

Tho completed in 1940, The Master & Margarita wasn’t published in Moscow until 1966, when the 1st part appeared in the magazine Moskva. It was an immediate & enduring success: Audiences responded with great enthusiasm to its expression of artistic & spiritual freedom.

Tender Is the NightTender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character, Tender Is the Night is lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative.

Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.

* Books part of my reading challenge for 2015; re-reads and more books in translation

What Are You Reading?

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

January 17, 2015 David Mitchell, Historical Fiction 10

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellTitle: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Goodreads)
Author: David Mitchell
Published: Sceptre, 2010
Pages: 469
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet tells the story of the Dutch East India Company’s trading post off of Nagasaki in 1977. Japan has been cut off from the rest of the world and the only outside influence was a small man-made island known as Dejima. Originally built by Portuguese traders, this island was walled off and used by the Dutch as a trading post from 1641 until 1853. This novel follows the story of Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk who has been sent to Dejima to uncover any evidence of corruption form the previous Chief Resident of this trading post.

My first attempt with David Mitchell was Cloud Atlas which probably was a terrible starting point; I had a lot of problems with the fragmented storyline. I know that Cloud Atlas was an experimental piece of post-modern fiction but for me it felt like a writing exercise to see what genres he was able to write in. With a little push, I was convinced to try The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which is a straight forward historical fiction novel that would allow me to discover Mitchell as a writer but try anything experimental again. I think if I read this book first, I would have gained an appreciation for this author and been more willing to see what he can do when he played around with genres.

This novel can be broken into two parts. The first half of the book establishes the world; we learn about the history of the Dutch East India Company, Japan and the island of Dejima. Mitchell spends a lot of time building characters and painting beautiful scenery. This is a nice slow-paced section that just explores the history and the culture clash between Japan and the Dutch; it also allows the reader to meet some of the characters. Then the book changes tone completely and everything becomes fast paced and thrilling which I won’t get into as this is where the bulk of the plot happens and I am not willing to give spoilers.

While this book does deal with the culture clash, it also looks at love and the human condition.  Jacob de Zoet falls in love with a Japanese midwife, Orito and the plot does focuses a lot around this affection. Orito was a great heroine in this book. She pushes to learn how to be a midwife, in a time and place where the term midwife would have been unheard of. She is this strong willed and intelligent woman that just stole the show for me. I did struggle a little with Jacob de Zoet, he was this incorruptible man working on a trading post full of corruption. He just felt so good and kind, almost to the point of being fake. His prudishness and piety sometimes rubbed me the wrong way; as most people know. I do like characters that are deeply flawed so Jacob came across as too perfect. Having said that, I think this (somewhat) perfect protagonist was utilised well within the novel and helped Mitchell explore the themes around the human condition.

One thing I was curious about that I felt wasn’t explored enough was the language barrier between the Japanese and the Dutch. There was a great deal of exploration with the differences in cultures and how they clashed but when it came to language it was brushed over. There is so much there that was mentioned that I wanted more information about, for example when it came to the translators. The translators had the power to translate Japanese to Dutch and the opportunities for corruption was mentioned briefly and I would have loved to see these ideas explored more.

David Mitchell seems to have a keen interest in Japanese culture and the human condition, I felt like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was able to explore these topics far better than I think Cloud Atlas did. I am not trying to rip apart Cloud Atlas (I may re-read it one day), I just felt the emotions and character development were missing from that novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet has given me the confidence to try more books by David Mitchell and I am not sure what I will look at next but I am curious. If anyone wants to recommend me another Mitchell book, maybe something with a flawed character, please let me know.

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

January 15, 2015 Classic, Leo Tolstoy 0

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo TolstoyTitle: The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Goodreads)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translator: Nicolas Pasternak Slater
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1884
Pages: 256
Genre: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late 1870s.

Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I am not just referring to the length, but that does play a big part. I have read somewhere that Tolstoy intentionally made Anna Karenina and War and Peace so long because he wanted to replicate life and the journey the characters face. Allowing the reader to experience every decision and moral dilemma that the character is facing, exploring the growth or evolution of each and every person within the novels.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich takes a more focused approach, dealing with major questions revolving around the meaning of life, death and spirituality. Leo Tolstoy had a major conversion in the late 1870s and the questions in this novel were the questions he was asking himself. Whether or not Ivan Ilyich found the answers he was looking for is up to the reader but it is believed that Leo Tolstoy was still looking for the same answers well after finishing this novella.

There is a lot of pain and torment that appears in this book, which reflects the authors search for answers and that is what really stood out for me. Not only was I reading a spiritual/existential struggle of the protagonist but Tolstoy’s own feeling really came out within the pages. This is what makes this a masterpiece that explores the tortured artist in great detail. I don’t want to say much more, this is the type of book people have to read and make their own mind up about the themes presented, but it is worth reading.

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

January 12, 2015 What are you Reading 21

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

Among OthersAmong Others by Jo Walton

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The extraordinary new novel from the author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize­–winning The Remains of the Day

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased.

The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards—some strange and other-worldly—but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.

AcceptanceAcceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

The final installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy

It is winter in Area X. A new team embarks across the border on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown—navigating new terrain and new challenges—the threat to the outside world becomes more daunting. In Acceptance, the last installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound—or terrifying.

Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.

What Are You Reading?

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Cherry Bomb by Jenny Valentish

January 10, 2015 Contemporary, Jenny Valentish 0

Cherry Bomb by Jenny ValentishTitle: Cherry Bomb (Goodreads)
Author: Jenny Valentish
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2014
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

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Nina and Rose Dall have always dreamed of being rock stars. Influenced by her aunty Alannah Dall, a pop sensation in the 1980’s, Nina along with her cousin started a punk band known as The Bain-Maries until being signed and renamed The Dolls. Cherry Bomb tells the story of The Dolls rise to fame and the wild ride they faced while navigating the Australian music scene.

Cherry Bomb is told much like a memoir, where Nina Dall is recounting the career of The Dolls. This allowed Jenny Valentish the ability to write a coming of age story that mixes a “rise to fame” journey with a social commentary of the music industry. Before writing her debut novel, Valenstish worked as a music publicist and journalist with her time spent as a columnist for NME and an editor for Triple J’s magazine Jmag. This knowledge on the music industry allowed her to write a social commentary that focuses on the way woman are treated within the industry.

I picked up this book thinking it was a contemporary and fun read, which it mainly was; I was pleasantly surprised to find the social criticism. Cherry Bomb has shades of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby throughout the novel but for the most part it felt fresh. I was particularly fascinated by the playlist in the back on the book and would love to see a Spotify (Jenny Valentish does have a Cherry Bomb playlist, but it is different to The Doll’s playlist in the back of the book) playlist just so I can list to all those songs.

While this might be something different from what I normally read, I do try to explore all kinds of literature so hopefully people aren’t too surprised to see me read this one. However I will mention that I picked up this novel because the blurbs for the book were all done by Australian musicians, instead of other authors and I thought that was a unique concept and made me feel that Jenny Valentish may have captured the music industry correctly. Cherry Bomb is an entertaining read full of sex, drugs and rock and roll and I look forward to reading Valentish’s next novel.

EDIT: The good people from Allen and Ulwin have already created the Cherry Bomb Spotify playlist.

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In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

January 9, 2015 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Classic 0

In the First Circle by Aleksandr SolzhenitsynTitle: In the First Circle (Goodreads)
Author: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Translator: Harry Willets
Published: Harper Perennial, 1968
Pages: 784
Genre: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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Moscow, Christmas Eve 1949; a man makes a phone call to the American embassy to warn them about the Soviet Atom Bomb project. This call was caught on tape and quickly disconnected by The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). A brilliant mathematician named Gleb Nerzhin, was taken as a sharashka (known as zeks) prisoner and ordered to help track down the mystery caller. The zeks know that they have it better than a “regular” gulag prisoners but they are faced with the moral dilemma; to aid a political system they oppose or be transferred to the deadly labour camps.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a Russian author as well as a historian; he was also a critic of Soviet totalitarianism which found himself in prison much like Gleb Nerzhin. He was accused of anti-revolutionary propaganda under Russian SFSR Penal Code (Article 58 paragraph 10) which is a ‘catch-all’ criminal offence that could be used against anyone that might threaten the government. During the period of Stalinism, the crime of “propaganda and agitation that called to overturn or undermining of the Soviet power” jumped from a six month prison sentence to seven years of imprisonment, with possible internal exile for two to five years. On 7 July 1945, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to seven years in a labour camp for comments he made in private letters to a friend. After his sentence ended, Solzhenitsyn was then internally exiled for life at Kok-Terek, which is in the north-eastern region of Kazakhstan.

The First Circle was self-censored before Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn even attempted to get it published in 1968. Originally the book was 96 chapters long but the censorship turned the novel into 87 chapters. Some changes included the man telling another doctor to share some new medicine with the French instead of warning the Americans about the atom bomb. All mention of the Roman Catholics and religion was also removed. It wasn’t till 2009 a new English translation (not sure of the details on the Russian editions) saw the book restored and uncensored; now with the title In The First Circle.

The title alone is fascinating and it allows the reader to pick up on the whole metaphor before starting the novel. Looking at Dante’s Inferno, it is easy to find that the first circle of hell is limbo. In the epic poem Virgil introduces Dante to people like Socrates, Plato, Homer, Horace and Ovid. The time between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is often referred to as the Harrowing of Hell, in which he descended into limbo and brought salvation to the righteous. However in Dante’s Inferno this meant that Christ saved people like Noah, Moses, Abraham and King David, but a lot of the intellectuals where left. This is metaphor for the penal institutions, making reference to all the intellectuals and political thinkers arrested under Stalin’s Russia.

This novel made me feel a lot smarter than I actually am, there is a lot of information within In The First Circle however Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn presented them in accessible way. Going into the book I knew a little about Solzhenitsyn’s life and the metaphor in the title was explained in the Goodreads synopsis. So I was able to witness how everything came together without doing any research. The book sometimes goes into Russian history; I was fascinated with everything I learnt.

I have read so many books set in Cold War Russia but I don’t think there have been many actually written by a Russian. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has lead an interesting life and I am keen to read more of his novels before attempting The Gulag Archipelago, his three volume book on the history of a gulag labour camp. If you have paid attention to my best of 2014 list you would have noticed that In The First Circle did make the list. This was a wonderful book that was both thrilling and educational, I would recommend it to anyone interested in Russian history, especially the Cold War era.

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

January 5, 2015 What are you Reading 9

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

In 1799, Jacob de Zoet disembarks on the tiny island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s remotest trading post in a Japan otherwise closed to the outside world. A junior clerk, his task is to uncover evidence of the previous Chief Resident’s corruption.

Cold-shouldered by his compatriots, Jacob earns the trust of a local interpreter and, more dangerously, becomes intrigued by a rare woman—a midwife permitted to study on Dejima under the company physician. He cannot foresee how disastrously each will be betrayed by someone they trust, nor how intertwined and far-reaching the consequences.

Duplicity and integrity, love and lust, guilt and faith, cold murder and strange immortality stalk the stage in this enthralling novel, which brings to vivid life the ordinary—and extraordinary—people caught up in a tectonic shift between East and West.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill LeporeThe Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Commanding a vast and wildly passionate following, Wonder Woman has never been out of print in seven decades. She appeared in 1941, a liberated and powerful female superhero at a time when women’s role models were stiflingly conservative. Her creator was American psychologist William Moulton Marston, who was inspired by legends of the warrior princesses of the Amazon and by early feminists, starting with the famous suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst.

Marston was also influenced by the women in his own life, including Sadie Holloway, the spirited young British girl who would later become his wife. Through extensive research, New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore paints a compelling portrait of Marston, revealing him to have been talented and charismatic, but also deeply conflicted. He wrote a column celebrating conventional family life — but practised extraordinary sexual nonconformity, with his wife and mistress under the same roof. The inventor of the lie detector, he lived a life of secrets — which he then spilled on the pages of the Wonder Woman comics he wrote.

In this gripping work of pop culture history, Lepore argues that Wonder Woman is the missing link in understanding the struggle for women’s rights.

The Secret History of Wonder Women is not only a compelling revisionist history, it’s a rollicking good read and is packed with stunning archival illustrations and photos.

perfumePerfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (Translator: John E. Woods)*

An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind’s classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift—an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.

Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.

* Books part of my reading challenge for 2015; re-reads and more books in translation

What Are You Reading?

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

January 3, 2015 Charlotte Brontë, Classic 4

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëTitle: Jane Eyre (Goodreads)
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1847
Pages: 542
Genre: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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When Jane Eyre was originally published, it was called Jane Eyre: An Autobiography edited by Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë’s pen-name), which in itself is a fascinating insight into this classic novel. The idea Charlotte Brontë wanted this to be viewed as an autobiography implies this is more of a social commentary more than a classic gothic novel. This is what I want to focus my review on; what did she want to say about the world when she wrote this book?

Most people know the plot of Jane Eyre, so we can skip that and go right into the analysis. Bildungsroman is the primary genre of Jane Eyre, which is basically a coming of age story that documents the psychological and moral growth of its protagonist, which is interesting because on the surface there doesn’t seem to be much growth for Jane Eyre. Apart from the class struggle; Jane Eyre was an educated orphan who always believed she was low class. She constantly discriminates against herself about her class and this ultimately allows Mr Rochester to be the dominating force he is in their relationship. However it isn’t until Jane has money and returns to find Rochester blind and cripple, that she agree to marry him; what does that say about the social balance?

Though there is a whole idea of independence that plays out within this novel as well. I never thought that Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester had any chemistry and the first proposal was forced upon her. Thankfully it was revealed that Rochester was already married and Jane got out of the position she was in. She had to learn independence and the ability to make decisions for herself. This was tested when St. John (which I discovered is meant to be pronounced together like sin-jun) asked her to marry him.

There is a strong sense of religious morality at the core of Jane Eyre, just look at when St. John proposed to Jane Eyre, it allowed her to played with the idea of a moral decision. There is also an equilibrium between moral duty and earthly happiness that comes into play in this scene. Jane sees John as a brother but he tries to pressure her by implying that it is her Christian duty to marry him and work as a missionary in India. Her refusal to marry him but still travel to India as a missionary was met with disdain. John tries to emotionally blackmail her into marriage using God’s will as ammunition, even though there is no love and would only be a marriage of convenience.

I know I may have asked a few too many questions in this review, but there are some interesting thoughts to be had about Jane Eyre. I am not going to go into how Mr Rochester is the Byronic hero, the gothic themes, or how people should view this book as a Romantic novel and not a romantic book. Personally I think there are interesting elements within this classic book but Charlotte Brontë is my least favourite of all the Brontë sisters. This is the first time reading Jane Eyre and I might read it again at some point; but I hope I offered some interesting insights into the book.

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