Audio Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Posted June 1, 2020 by Amanda in Reviews / 2 Comments

Audio Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Narrator: Thandie Newton
Published by Audible Studios on 2016-04-17
Length: 19hrs and 10min
Reviewing Audiobook from Audible

"I think the reason we're so struck by Jane Eyre is how Charlotte Brontë manages to relate, expertly, what it means to be a human being...and that never changes." (Narrator Thandie Newton)

Following Jane from her childhood as an orphan in Northern England through her experience as a governess at Thornfield Hall, Charlotte Brontë's Gothic classic is an early exploration of women's independence in the mid-19th century and the pervasive societal challenges women had to endure. At Thornfield, Jane meets the complex and mysterious Mr. Rochester, with whom she shares a complicated relationship that ultimately forces her to reconcile the conflicting passions of romantic love and religious piety. Performing the early Victorian novel with great care and respect, actress Thandie Newton (Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness) draws out Jane Eyre's intimacy and depth while conveying how truly progressive Brontë was in an era of extreme restraint.

Life is divided into sections. There was the time you were a child, a time you were a teenager, a time you were an adult. Then your adult life is sectioned off into marriage, parenthood, career, retirement, the time you travel, the time you were with that one person, those years you were depressed, and so on. My book life is like this. There was a time I was obsessed with Redwall and all its inhabitants. There was a time I was roaming the halls of Hogwarts; the time I was slinking through Adarlan…but the most significant change in me happened the year I became a mom. I decided that I didn’t read enough. I had a lot of down time during my daughter’s naps, (and honestly needed a mental escape from the whirlwind of becoming a wife and a mom in less than a year) so I took up my old habit of reading after eleven years of neglecting it. The first books I read were Jane Austen. I decided to branch out to reading the Brontë sisters’ works, starting with Jane Eyre. The book affected me so deeply that I can truthfully say my reading life is divided like this: before Jane Eyre (bJE) and after Jane Eyre (aJE), then subdivided from there. 

The first time I ever read Jane Eyre, I remember not wanting to talk to anyone or wanting to be talked to until it was done. I remember my heart being broken for Jane several times over again. I remember that I had never really met anyone like Jane – she was wholly new to me. For me, once I’ve read a book and know what happens it takes a lot for me to want to read it again. I did, however, read it again MULTIPLE times. I’ve probably read it through at least four times in ten years. I’ve watched MANY different adaptations of the book, and none of them live up to my expectations or bring back those initial feelings I had upon reading it the first time. It’s hard to imbue newer or fresher feelings on so well-loved a tale. Or so I thought.

This isn’t the usual review where I outline the details of a new story in hopes that you’ll read it and take notice of a new adventure. This adventure, these characters are probably known to you. Jane’s story is an old one by today’s standards. But I am here to tell you I feel new, fresh revelations of love for this book. I wrote the above in an attempt to communicate to you what Jane means to me, so when I say I have a newfound love for it, you will know it’s not a small thing to say. I was prompted to go back through it again because I wanted to add to our Novel Flicks feature and write something about Jane Eyre. I chose it because I am familiar with the book, so the comparison between film and book would come easier to me. It’s been a while since I have gone through the book, so I decided I’d indulge in an audio version and review that for you. Thandie Newton brought such rich texture to the story – such color and vibrancy – which revived my affection for it. This is one of my favorite things about good audiobook performances – you get to hear the story in a fresh way from a voice not your own.

In the stronger plot points, like the death of Helen Burns or Rochester’s proposal or her moments of desperation on the moors, Thandie conveys depth of feeling and tenderness by whispering exchanges, even crying at times. She reads many characters in dialect (I found her “Hannah” to be absolutely charming), and her French is parfait. Her Rochester is at times morose, at times intense and stormy, at times tender – as he should be. Her Jane is thoughtful, stalwart, playful, warm, and sweet. All I keep thinking is “texture”: she brings beautiful texture to the story. She enhances the essence of the story and detracts nothing from the overall genius of Brontë’s writing. If there were Oscars or Tonys for audiobook performances, this performance of Thandie Newton’s would have earned her about four. 

A serious, colossal, very large 5 stars for this performance!! It was an absolutely indulgent treat to listen to.

About Charlotte Bronte

Author Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) was from an English family that produced three novelists: herself, Emily, and Anne. Besides Jane Eyre, other best known works include Shirley and Villette.

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