Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Dozen of Jane

I recently bought a new copy of Jane Eyre. I . . . didn't need a new copy of this book. While it was pretty, it also wasn't my favorite copy of this book I've ever seen. It's just that I can never resist buying all the copies of Jane Eyre.

While, from the standpoint of a literary critic, I will certainly listen to, even in theory agree with, anyone who states that Jane Eyre isn't Charlotte Bronte's best novel or the best novel of the Victorian era or the best of the Bronte Sisters' novels (although it's kind of unfair of us to lump the sisters into one category as if they had no individuality). But the thing is (and I know many people agree with me), Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and maybe even my favorite of all. Jane Eyre is my soul. I reflect back and forth with that book like it's a mirror that I look into or a lesson book written just for me. I started reading it first when I was ten; it was a little too much for me at that age so I picked it up again when I was twelve (I finished it the summer just before I turned thirteen).  Since then, I've read it again every few years. It grows with me and develops with me. It's my soul.

I only ever read the first copy that I bought all those years ago in the children's section at Barnes & Noble; this was the Puffin Classics edition with Jane walking in a billowing purple dress outside of Thornfield. But I also own the Penguin edition, the Barnes & Noble classics hardcover (I'm missing their paperback, am I not?), the Barnes & Noble collectible classics hardcover (they now make this one in a soft cover instead, so I'm glad I bought it when I was still in this nicer version), the pretty Penguin Classics edition that places like Anthropologie loved to sell a couple years ago when they first came out, an old clothbound blue copy that once belonged to a random high school library in Arizona, a dark blue clothbound copy possibly even older than that one, the Knickerbocker Classics edition (which is the one I just bought), the Canterbury Classics edition, Dame Darcy's illustrated edition, the graphic novel version, and the BabyLit version. If you count those last two (which are technically in a different category, that's twelve total.

And I suppose I do also own one of those book journals that uses the sentences of the book (printed in tiny, tiny letters) instead of lines for you to write on. That would make it a baker's dozen.

For a book that's this important to me, I might as well have a little collection going. I mean, it isn't as if there is much book merch out there, even for a book as eternally popular as Jane Eyre. Sure, I have that journal and the t-shirt from Out of Print and especially nowadays with things like Etsy, there are certainly some options out there. But mainly the books are my merch. I can just sit and look at them and consider how they do or don't reflect on the content and tone of the book.

That gray leather-bound is wonderful and Dame Darcy's is pretty cool. But, you know what? I think that perhaps my favorite is still that purple Puffin one. Some of the stylish, trendy copies automatically make this book look all feminine with pink and yellow and flowers and frills because it's a book about a woman written by a woman. And yes, it is certainly a feminine book in many ways. But it's also a dark book--which is why I love it. This purple book captures that duality. Jane is there in her dress but you can also see all the storm clouds around Thornfield and the birds circling the air like a bad omen and the light shining on the trees to represent all the nature elements that are also so prevalent in this book. Yes, this is the cover that made me reach for this book to learn more--all those years ago when I had never heard of Charlotte Bronte or Jane Eyre.

I tell you, it's great when children can grow up already knowing about the classics. But it's also amazing to discover them and fall in love with them entirely on your own. (I mean, I did know about a good many classics [thank you, Wishbone], but Jane Eyre wasn't one of them.)

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