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Jane Eyre

By: Charlotte Brontë
Narrated by: Thandiwe Newton
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Go Behind the Scenes with Thandiwe Newton


Editorial review

By Mysia Haight, Audible Editor


I first read Jane Eyre when I was in high school and remember feeling terribly sorry for Jane—for not only what she suffered as a child but also for her ending up married to a damaged man. A few years ago, I stumbled across a piece on Vox, written in honor of Charlotte Brontë's 200th birthday. I was intrigued by Constance Grady's assessment of Jane as "prickly, judgmental, and totally unlikable," and of Brontë's work as "monumental." When I learned that the talented actress Thandiwe Newton performs the Audible Original adaptation, winning an Earphones Award and listener raves, I just had to listen. It was time to rediscover Jane.

Jane Eyre was first published in England in 1847, credited to Currer Bell. That the gifted author Charlotte Brontë felt compelled to use a male pen name to get her work taken seriously speaks volumes about the status of women at the time and the novel’s unconventional heroine. Jane Eyre is fierce, intelligent, and outspoken. She’s passionate but not a beauty—she describes herself as "little" and "plain." She never waivers from what she believes is right, and she respects herself. As a short, not exactly stunning, and quietly strong-minded woman myself, I found Jane refreshingly down-to-earth and relatable. And as a feminist, I found Jane inspiring.

Jane is no stranger to hardship. By the age of 10, she has endured losing her parents, being treated as a burden by her relatives (especially one cruel aunt), and getting sent to Lowood Institution, where the students, poor and orphaned girls, are subjected to cold rooms, meager meals, and harsh punishments. Her struggles only make her stronger—and more outraged by injustices against the poor, the weak, and women. At 18, after two years as a teacher at (the much improved) Lockwood, she seeks work as a governess and accepts a position at Thornfield Hall, teaching and tending to a young French girl, Adèle, the ward of Edward Fairfax Rochester. When Jane first meets her employer, she finds him arrogant. But as they spend time together, she comes to appreciate Rochester’s humor and tenderness. Jane falls in love—hard. Then, strange things start to happen at Thornfield—the sound of chilling laughter through the walls, a mysterious fire, an attack on a houseguest. Rochester is hiding a terrible and terrifying secret. Will Jane wind up hurt and alone once again?

Jane Eyre is a romance, so there’s ultimately a happy ending. But a lot happens for Jane to get there, and it’s complicated and heart-wrenching. It’s a story about love and sacrifice, madness and loss, compromise and forgiveness. It’s also the story of Jane’s awakening—from Jane’s perspective. Brontë wrote her novel in the first-person in a groundbreaking way that’s intimate, emotional, immediate, and deep. What I most loved about Jane Eyre is getting to know Jane, in all her prickliness and vulnerability, and what she thinks—about topics such as class, religion, sexuality, and feminism, as well as her oppressors, her supporters, her friends, and the infuriating, alluring Rochester. Listening to the novel as a woman with a daughter about Jane's age, I found myself marveling at her courage, her conviction, her moral compass, and her remarkable good sense. This time, I didn't feel sorry for Jane—I felt in awe of her.

With its strong heroine, feminist themes, indictment of society’s treatment of the poor and disenfranchised, and priority on self-respect, Jane Eyre speaks powerfully to listeners of every generation, and especially women. Beyond the novel’s complicated romance, Jane’s struggles and survival story will resonate with nearly everyone who’s ever been oppressed, discounted, or underestimated. To quote Newton, whose narration is brilliant, "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."

Continue reading Mysia's review >

Publisher's summary

Earphones Award Winner (AudioFile Magazine)

"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 Thandiwe 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 Thandiwe 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.

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Public Domain (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Narrator Thandie Newton gives a delightful performance of this beloved classic. She delivers the voice of Jane from childhood to adulthood with elegant conviction, breezing through the dense sentences as if they were part of a contemporary novel." (AudioFile)

"[Thandie Newton’s] taut British diction makes a one-woman play out of the orphan girl’s love story, which starts out with all the young-adult tropes - the poor, good-hearted child abused by the spoiled, wealthy boy and his classist keepers, each distinguished by his or her own idiosyncratic cadence - but progresses into what many consider the prototypical Victorian novel. Written in 1847, not long before the start of the American Civil War, the novel makes repeated comparisons between Jane’s captivity, as an impoverished girl in a rich family’s home, and slavery. Newton’s exasperated and aptly melodramatic delivery of Jane’s accusation that her cruel stepbrother is 'like a slave-driver' is a knowing contemporary wink at this timeless yet dated classic." (The New York Times Book Review)

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