For the last month and a half, I’ve been reading Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I’ve never read anything by any of the Brontë sisters before (someone once told me that they thought Wuthering Heights was quite boring, and that probably (unjustly) put me off all of their novels), and I’ll admit that the only reason Jane Eyre made it on to my to-read list is because it is the favourite novel of the same friend who has recommended and lent me several brilliant novels in the past – novels that I probably would otherwise not have come across or picked up.
I am convinced that this friend of mine has the best taste in books of anyone I know. Well, either that, or she’s just really good at picking books for me.
I remember asking her, ages ago, what her most favourite book was; and she didn’t have to think long before naming Jane Eyre. At the time, I had no idea what the novel was about, but I put it on my TBR list without a second thought. But, of course, I had so many other books to read (including other ones that she’d lent to me) so I just didn’t get around to finding a copy to read.
When this friend moved interstate last year, she bestowed on me her own copy of Jane Eyre, along with a couple of other books (Tender is the Night and All Quiet on the Western Front). Just for safe-keeping, of course; the treasured books must and will be returned one day, I’m sure (although I might hold them for ransom…)
My heart is, naturally, warmed by such gestures as being lent much-loved novels, but, compounded by her departure, and by the significance of the novel itself, this seemed to have a more profound effect on me. Perhaps you’ll think I’m being a bit dramatic, but whatever.
Still, I put off reading it until I’d read the other two books, and then I waited until I felt that I was ready to read it. (All this time, I still had no idea what the novel was about, so I’m not entirely sure what I judged this readiness by. Perhaps I was just waiting until my impatience was such that I could not put it off any longer.)
Like the deferential person I am, I always take considerable care with books borrowed from others, but, being human after all, I cannot say that I’ve never left a mark of some sort on a borrowed book. However, I was determined that nothing should harm this particular novel, and that it would be returned in precisely the same condition in which I’d received it. Eventually, I even stopped taking it with me to the cafeteria for lunch (this possibly contributed to me taking so long to finish reading it, but it’s not like I get much reading done during lunchtimes anyway…)
I remember when I was reading the first novel she’d lent to me (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), I’d gotten some minor blemish on it, and I felt quite bad about it; but she just shrugged it off – it was not a big deal. Added character, perhaps? Indeed, my own most-loved novel (a copy of Great Expectations that I’d chosen to receive as my “prize” in Grade 12 English) is now well-worn (although not too much so), and looks more like it fits the part of “most-loved novel” than it did when I’d gone to such pains to preserve its mint condition.
But I am pleased to say (and I hope she is also) that I have left no new marks on her copy of Jane Eyre, except, one might say, fingerprints imperceptible to the naked eye.
Hmm… I hadn’t expected to get so far into this post without getting to the crux of what I was supposed to write about (i.e. the novel and the story itself – the actual content, not just its physical form). Perhaps it’d be good to put it in another post, but that will have to wait for another day, or perhaps another week.