Monday, March 28, 2011

The Perfect Book

After seeing JANE EYRE this weekend, we had several discussions. Eight of us went to see it. One of the women was a nineteenth century scholar and was able to shed light on many issues.
The movie was generally enjoyed by those of us who could see past its romantic trappings. (Ahem, Phil).

I remember hating the book when I read it in my first year of college, but loving it twenty years later. Another woman claimed the opposite. That now, she sees it as a romance masquerading as a novel with social relevance. But it did tell you much about the fate of those without money or family. It did raise issues about divorce, orphanages, the treatment of the insane, the place of religion. Okay but basically it was a romance. Nothing wrong with that and it certainly is superior to the latest Jennifer Anniston movie or romance novel.

Phil said it would have been better had Rochester died in the fire. To me this was crazy. You can't watch a movie (or read a book) where someone suffers for its entire length and not have any catharsis. He pointed out Tess of the D'Urbervilles. But Hardy was clearly a sadist. All his characters went down. Remember Jude.

I would classify it as one of the best books I've read. Maybe it is not perfect though.
What do you think of JANE EYRE and what is the most perfect book you've read.

38 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

James Salter comes closest to perfection for me: SOLO FACES, THE HUNTERS...I've seen JANE EYRE enough times that I don't remember whether I ever read the book.

Todd Mason said...

Closest to perfect novels? THE FEMALE MAN by Joanna Russ; THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett; THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald; CONJURE WIFE by Fritz Leiber; THE DEATH MACHINE (ROGUE MOON) by Algis Budrys; BLUEBEARD by Kurt Vonnegut; just maybe LADY ORACLE by Margaret Atwood. Writers in control of what they wanted to say, but not in such complete control that there's no surprise. (Some similarly brilliant works, rather as Hardy with his novels for you, overdetermined.)

Randy Johnson said...

Tough question. Todd makes some great suggestions and I've read all but the Atwood. I'll let those stand.

Dorte H said...

I liked Jane Eyre, but perfect? Hm. Perhaps not. One of the aspects of it I have come to appreciate later is ´the madwoman in the attic´, a theme which appeals to me as a crime reader & writer. So perhaps if Brontë had told us a bit more about THAT intriguing character ;)

pattinase (abbott) said...

You can read WIDE SARGASSO SEA for a book devoted to Mrs. Rochester.

Yvette said...

I loved the book when I first read it years ago. The only thing I never got used to was the convention of having the story break into three separate sections. Other than that though...I love the character. Love Mr. Rochester. Love the romance. LOve the story of how Jane finally finds her happy ending.

My favorite adaptation is the Timothy Dalton one. And I even liked the George C. Scott one though I haven't seen that in many years.

My feeling is that all heroes of all romances written today stem from Mr. Rochester.

Not a perfect novel because of the way the manuscript is set up. But close enough.

Perfect novels? Off the top of my head I'd say:
THE GREAT GATSBY and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I liked Jane Eyre, but I agree with Dorte that it isn't perfect. I like the way Jane really comes into her own as the novel goes on, though.

As far as a perfect book, goes, I don't think I could answer that...

Naomi Johnson said...

I loved JANE EYRE many years ago, on the first couple of readings. Now -- it feels almost as contrived as a modern bodice ripper (minus the graphic sex, also contrived). I don't think I'll ever have the patience to sit through it again.

I love many books for varying reasons, but I'm not sure there is a "perfect" book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Pride and Prejudice comes close as does Gatsby. More modern books, pretty near perfect would include BEL CANTO, THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELDS, A PLACE OF EXECUTION, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, CATCH 22, WINTER'S BONE, LONESOME DOVE. And a whole different list tomorrow.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, and TRUE GRIT for sure.

Todd Mason said...

I'd wager you'd like CONJURE WIFE a lot. And probably LADY ORACLE, if you haven't read it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read LADY ORACLE and probably most of Atwood. CONJURE WIFE is on my list at is the Russ book.

Deb said...

Anthony Trollope's THE WAY WE LIVE NOW is, in my mind, a perfect book. I like most of Trollope's output (there's an occasional clunker, but when you've written--what? 60?--novels, you're entitled to a couple of duds), but TWWLN is the absolute pinnacle of perfection.

I disagree with you strongly about Hardy and sadism, but perhaps that's another entry for another time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I keep meaning to read Trollope. But the length just puts me off.
And I really should not pull out my high school assessments of Hardy. Have not read him since I was seventeen. But it did seem like his characters were horribly treated.

Anonymous said...

Patti, glad you mentioned WIDE SARGASSO SEA as I was going to. (And for those who don't know, the author was Jean Rhys, whose own sad life was pretty interesting.)

No, JANE is not a favorite of mine. I'd agree more with some of the other titles mentioned: MALTESE FALCON, LONESOME DOVE, ACCIDENTAL TOURIST to name three. Oh yes, I loved A PLACE OF EXECUTION - wonderful book.

It's been a long time since I read CONJURE WIFE so don't really remember the details well enough to rate it, but I would definitely recommend reading it.

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES is another deserving of consideration.

Jeff M.

David Cranmer said...

I never read JANE EYRE but THE GREAT GATSBY is my pick for the closest to perfection.

Richard R. said...

Difficult. Way too long since I read EYRE, or any Dickens for that matter, though DAVID COPPERFIELD remains strong in my mind. The first book I thought of, though, is SHOGUN.

pattinase (abbott) said...

DUNCES is superlative. Are you in London, Jeff?
I have probably read Gatsby 3-4 times and it only gets better.
I think my favorite Dickens is GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Laurie Powers said...

I wouldn't know where to begin if I had to pick the perfect book. I'll probably raise a few eyebrows when I say that LOLITA is close to the top of my list. Gatsby? Meh.

I did love Jane Eyre, though. And I have a copy of Trollope's THE WAY WE LIVE NOW, and now I'm pushing it to the top of the list.

Anonymous said...

We're leaving tonight and will be there tomorrow morning (if all goes well). Back next Wednesday.

I thought of DAVID COPPERFIELD too, Rick, but I'm smacking myself for forgetting SHOGUN, an all-time favorite.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lolita is an excellent choice. I was shocked at how good it was when I read it. And the James Mason movie is pretty good too.
Have fun, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

Loved Shelley Winters in LOLITA too.

Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

I really have to read this one. I've downloaded it to my kindle.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Shelly Winters was such a brave actress, unafraid to play such parts.
Speaking of which, I hardly recognized Mare Winningham in MILDRED PIERCE. I am not sure how much of it is makeup and body language.

Anonymous said...

Anyone in my corner about Barry Hannah's Geronimo Rex and Airships?

George said...

Deb got in first with Trollop's THE WAY WE LIVE NOW (just a superb novel!) so I'll have to go with Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. I'm not a big fan of JANE EYRE, I prefer Villette.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The only thing I have read by Hannah is AIRSHIPS. A terrible hole in my reading. (Among many)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if any men like Jane Eyre?

Anonymous said...

One of the best first novel of all time: THE GINGER MAN. I've read it 5 times and everytime it was explosive.

Richard R. said...

I think also deserving of mention here is Steinbeck's THE PEARL.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have never read THE GINGER MAN nor anything by J.P. Donleavy. These gaps are making me sad.
Read a lot, a really lot. of Steinbeck but not THE PEARL. EAST OF EDEN is my favorite.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

When I finished this I remember thinking 'This is a perfect novel.'
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. I still think so. But I haven't read it again so who knows?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I totally agree. That and Accidental Tourist and Celestial Navigation were my three favorites. For a long time, she could do no wrong.

Cap'n Bob said...

Favorites would include The Maltese Falcon and Shane. Never was able to get through either Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have only seen the movie of SHANE. I don't even think I knew it was a book first.

Todd Mason said...

Of course some men like or love the Brontes' work. It's just easier to love Austen and MW Shelley, among so many others ahead of the Brontes, for the wit and the imagination.

Perfervid is rarely my favorite mode, so I've not delved into the Brontes as readily as I might.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have just read this and Wuthering Heights. Whereas I have read all of Austen-at least once or twice in some cases. She is the more sophisticated writer IMHO, but maybe lacks the passion of the Brontes.

Anonymous said...

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