Tuesday, 11 September 2012

'There was no possiblity of taking a walk that day'.

... for as to elves, having sought them in vain among foxglove leaves and bells, under the mushrooms and beneath the ground ivy mantling old wall nooks, I had at length made up my mind to the sad fact that they were all gone out of England ...
There is a nip of autumn in the air and my thoughts are turning toward classic Victorian novels. I'm re-reading Jane Eyre. I'd forgotten how powerfully Charlotte Bronte uses the colour red in the early chapters to symbolise the oppression of Jane's unhappy childhood.

There is of course the terrifying 'red room' with its deep-red damask curtains, red carpet, mahogany-red furniture and 'soft fawn walls with a blush of pink' to contrast with the dazzling white bed where ten-year-old Jane is locked as a punishment. Bronte uses the stark red and white contrast in the opening pages where Jane hides behind a red curtain as she sits on the window seat looking out over the winter landscape and tracing frost flowers on the glass and then again when Eliza and Georgiana wear white dresses with scarlet sashes to the winter festivities which Jane is excluded from.

It was good to pick up a powerfully written novel after enduring 50 Shades of Grey for book group. It wasn't the sex that shocked me - just the bad writing!

18 comments:

stujallen said...

Love the everyman books great pic ,all the best stu

LizF said...

Jane Eyre -my favourite since I first read it when I was off sick from school aged about 11 or 12!
I think it helped that my copy is a second edition that originally belonged to my great great-grandmother but the edition you picture looks a lovely one too.

Having read some mercifully brief excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey online, I can't envisage ever picking it up from choice as life is too short and there are far too many other books that are worth reading.

Sunday Taylor said...

Nicola, that first line is so good! One of my favorite books and thanks for pointing out the use of red in the beginning. I didn't remember that and would love to reread the book for all these wonderful details. Did you see that Juliet Barker has updated her classic biography of the Brontes? It's gotten very good reviews. Enjoy your autumn reading!

Lilac In May said...

The bad writing - and the plagiarism! The Red Room of Pain, the rich, powerful older man, the young, innocent virgin he is attracted to....

mary said...

I'm dreading that's going to be what our book group chooses tonight!

Anbolyn said...

I remember my English lit professor talking a lot about the red symbolism in Jane Eyre. It brings back fond memories. ;)

Lady Disdain said...

"Jane Eyre" is one of my absolute favorite novels! I, too, remember a lot of the red symbolism, with the room and the curtain, but didn't actually notice the Reed sisters' dresses.
The image you construct of Jane hiding behind the red velvet curtain looking out on a white winter landscape is striking. I always got the impression that the landscape was gray but your interpretation's more aesthetically pleasing ;)

callmemadam said...

Thank goodness I don't have to read Fifty Shades of Grey!

Bookssnob said...

What a horrific book club choice...you poor thing! Jane Eyre must be a blessed relief...I want to re-read it this winter. I just saw the Michael Fassbender/Mia Wasikowska version on DVD and it gave me a real hankering for those windswept moors...

Ellen said...

Jude Morgan's book "The Taste of Sorrow" is an enjoyable fictionalised account of the brief, briilliant lives of the Brontes. Jane Eyre is such a wonderful book, worth reading many, many times. Unlike, I suspect, Fifty Shades of Grey!

claire said...

Nicola, I'm smiling from ear to ear to hear that you read 50 Shades! My friends are trying to convince me and, like you, am shying away from it not because of the content but because of the writing. :D

I'd forgotten about the reds in the beginning of Jane Eyre. It's wonderful how rereading sheds a different light to things we've never seen before sometimes.

o said...

I remember an old pal of mine who loved red wine - he said sometimes, relatively frequently, it was good to buy the cheapest, the kind he said you could clean windows with, so that when he came to drinking the good stuff he would appreciate it all the more. That is EXACTLY how I felt about reading after I read 50 Shades!

And I love this post - it's been a while since I read Jane Eyre. Been thinking about having a general Bronte re-read, and this makes me want to revisit Jane Eyre very soon! :)

Iris said...

Interesting observations on the use of the colour red! I'd love to reread Jane Eyre again. :) I can imagine it must be a great distraction from 50 Shades.

lifeonthecutoff said...

One of my all time favorite reads. Jane Eyre, that is. I retrieved it from my mother's cedar chest as a young girl and devoured it. It was part of my father's collection.

tuesday said...

Ugh, 50 Shades! The sex was disappointing, the writing - as you say - just. Terrible.

Jane Eyre's been a favourite since I was about ten years old as well, and it's often been a comfort read for those windy, overcast days simply because of that line: 'there as no possibility of taking a walk that day', and the powerful images those opening pages convey.

Time for a re-read, I think :)

Vintage Reading said...

stu, I'm very slowly building up a collection of Everyman classics - I have about 9 titles so far.

LizF, I love the idea of an edition of Jane Eyre handed down through the generations. I always wanted my blog to be about beloved books passed from mother to daughter.

Sunday, I'm going through a Bronte phase right now! I think I'm going to put the Barker biog on my Christmas list!

Lilac, I never even made the connection! How could I have missed it - thanks for pointing it out.

Mary, I look forward to your 50 Shades blog post - you will have a unique take on it I'm sure!!

Anbolyn, I have fond memories of my English lecturers, too, they are a breed apart aren't they?!

Lady Disdain, (love that name!) I got the impression of lots of red and white. Grey features a lot in the novel, too. Jane is very keen on her 'pearl grey' governess dresses. You long for her to wear yellow or pink!

CallMeMadam, I think you should - and review it for us!!

Booksnob, I feel a visit to Haworth coming on, too!

Ellen, ooh thanks for the recommendation, I'll look out for the Morgan book.

Claire, do not let your friends influence you!

O, good point, you can't appreciate the good unless you know the poor. I'm going through a Bronte phase right now.

Iris, two of my bookgroup refused to read 50 shades, three of us read it, two of us didn't see what all the fuss was about and one quite liked it!!

lifeonthecutoff, I love the idea of a copy of Jane Eyre held in your mother's cedar chest which you read and loved. That is what I wanted this blog to be about.

Tuesday, I found it a real pleasure to re-read JE although I never warm to Mr Rochester. It is Jane's refusal to be dominated by life or circumstances against all the odds which I love so much.

Penny said...

There's nothing like bad writing to make you turn, with great relief, to a beautifully written classic, is there? I LOVE the first sentence and I must reread Jane Eyre, always a favourite! I haven't read 50 Shades... Too many books I WANT to read... I've had to miss our local book group for many months now, as their book choices would take away time from my own book choices and recommendations from book blogs!

Vintage Reading said...

Nice to hear from you Penny, I've missed your blog posts. Re-reading JE waa sheer pleasure, even Mr Rochester's ramblings didn't get on my nerves! Hope you get a chance to re-read!