Source: Lit2Go (iTunes link)
Length: Approx. 21 hrs
Reader: Amanda Eland
The book: Jane Eyre can be divided into five parts, neatly defined by Jane's five main places of residence. The first two sections, when she is with her Aunt Reed and at Lowood school made me think I would not enjoy the novel very much. Like Charles Dickens, Brontë spends a large portion of these early chapters beating the reader into sympathy through the injustice and hardships of an innocent orphan. Yet, I got the sense that Jane is not the Shirley Temple character she makes herself out to be in her first-person narrative. This tension of an unreliable narrator kept me interested in the book through the first two acts.
The real heart of Jane Eyre is the third section, when she becomes a governess at Thornfield. These chapters are a marvelous body of writing, encompassing romance, comedy of manners, mystery, and gothic horror. The momentum of the plot built up in this third part is so great that it carries the story through the fourth section, which starts out strong, but devolves into a "yes you will / no I won't" battle of wills. The fifth section brings the novel to a satisfying conclusion.
If you are reading this review, and are already a Jane Eyre fan, I would like to suggest, dear reader, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This novel has a great story with a number of parallels to Jane Eyre. I was able to pick the unabridged CDs for around $3 from the sale table at a Borders Bookstore, then after I listened to it, sell it to a used bookstore for $10. I can't recommend it as a "Free Listen", but for me, that was better than free.
The reader: Amanda Eland has a pleasant girlish voice that suits the calm character of Jane quite well. The repartee between Jane and Mr. Rochester does not come across as engaging as perhaps it should be, but otherwise her characters are well established. Although I'm no foreign language expert, Ms. Eland seemed to have trouble pronouncing the French and German phrases in the book. Overall this was a good reading in a high-quality recording. The main fault I had was not with the recording itself, but how it is presented. To download each chapter, you have to follow a link from the table of contents to that chapter's page, then download the file for that chapter separately. The files are quite large in size, with some chapters weighing in over 90 MB. However, this large size translates into good audio quality, so if you have a fast connection and plenty of memory, this book is certainly worthy of a download.
(Entered in the Book Review Wednesday contest at Cym Lowell. Follow the link for reviews of other books by various bloggers)