Monday, December 22, 2008

Is "Jane Eyre" the sexiest book ever written?

Asks The Daily Mail:
He pouts, broods and beats his way into our hearts, riding around the moors in leather boots and furry coats, looking ripe for rescue by our Jane.

He is clever, tortured and besotted, and Jane follows him around the house and calls him 'Sir' and 'Master' in scenes which, if I were not so well bred, I would consider rude.

A typical one goes like this: "You examine me, Miss Eyre," said he. "Do you find me handsome?" Jane has a ponder and comes back (no pushover she): "No, Sir".

It's a struggle, a battle, an epic; and when he finally declares his love to her (after naughtily pretending he was going to marry someone else), a tree gets struck by lightning in the garden. (This doesn't happen in my love-life, although I dearly wish it would). But ? and most people forget this ? Jane Eyre is a fantasy too rich for one hero. Charlotte wrote us two.

After she leaves Thornfield (to nearly die of exposure), she meets St John Rivers, who is later revealed to be her cousin. (In some ways, Jane Eyre is a lot like Dynasty.)

St John is a prim, sexy blond. (She probably cut a third hero, a red-head this time, from an early draft.) And, sometimes - particularly on winter Sunday afternoons - I find him more beguiling even than Rochester.

St John is a priest - a "cold hard man" he tells Jane - but he falls for Jane like an orange rolling off a fridge. She fancies him, too, watching him admire a picture of a beautiful girl and drooling: "He breathed low and fast; I stood silent."

That's two-love to lonely Miss Bronte. How spoilt she was in her head. But it's back to Rochester and his marvellous flaws, and the beautiful cry: "Reader," - say it with me - "I married him." Aaah.

That is when I collapse prostrate on the floor, like a piece of toast waiting for some Rochester-flavoured jam.

In Rochester, Charlotte wrote a hero no real man can ever touch. Jane Eyre should be subtitled Revenge Of The Parson's Daughter because she spoilt real love for us all.

He is the man in every film, book or TV series you ever wanted; the dark darling you can save from himself. Plus Thorn-field would be fab to redecorate.

And Jane is so ordinary, "poor, obscure, plain and little", that anyone could get him. He chucks the glamourous beauty Blanche for Jane. He falls, like a god, into our laps.

What about Jane Austen, you may squeak. What about Pride And Prejudice? Shaddap is my answer. Charlotte herself sneered that Jane Austen "ruffles her readers with nothing vehement" (ouch!) and tidy Miss Austen is a pastel to Bronte's lustrous crimson.

She's John Lewis to Charlotte's Selfridges. Who wants to hear about the city of Bath when you can have the wilds of Yorkshire? Who wants drippy Darcy ? a man so wet you could do backstroke in him ? when you can have Rochester and Rivers?

So Jane Eyre isn't the first book in the canon of love-starved fantasy. It is the canon. The only thing I can say against it is that it is indirectly responsible for Dame Barbara Cartland getting published.

I don't agree with quite a bit of this... but it is entertainingly written, especially the Rochester-flavored jam bit.