I really think there is some value in reading an author's works in the order in which they were published. For present-day, living authors, we eagerly await their newest titles and read them as they are published. Of course we read things from the middle, but I always find it fascinating to see how writers grow as they mature and perfect their craft. A perfect example of this is J.K. Rowling. The first couple of Harry Potter novels seem very youthful and fun. Granted, the subject matter wasn't as dark as it gets in the later novels, but you can also see a sense of growth as she continues Harry's story.
So when I read an author "out of order," it sometimes leaves me wondering if I should grow in knowledge about that author through their work. When I made the decision last fall to read Villette over Jane Eyre, I did it mainly because I was worried Jane Eyre wouldn't live up to all the hype. I wanted another experience with Charlotte Bronte to get me into her writing. And I was told, at the time, that the two novels are different in scope and style.
And my first impressions of Jane Eyre?
Charlotte Bronte was a different person when she wrote this novel. There is a sense of...beauty and hope in life that wasn't always clear in Villette. And from the little I know about her life, she went through some major life experiences between the publications of these two novels. Where Lucy Snowe hid information from the reader, kept secrets, and seemed distant, Jane Eyre is rather...strong in her opinions and thoughts. I have a firm grasp of who she is from the beginning. I sense that she also has a strong handle on who she is and what she wants to accomplish. Unlike Lucy Snowe, she has not let the circumstances of her life completely take over her identity. Jane is still optimistic in so many ways, even with the grimness of her situation. Lucy just seems wistful throughout her narration.
But I am loving younger Charlotte just as much as older Charlotte. There is something insanely refreshing about the character of Jane Eyre. She is bright, ambitious, and seems to have a strong sense of identity. I am through the portion where Jane is at Lowood and she is about to embark on her journey to her new situation as a governess. But during these opening scenes, I can see that Jane is one of those people who does not let their misfortune in life dictate who they are. That is an admirable trait, and I love that in characters.
And I am not sure what I was expecting from this novel, seeing as I knew nothing about the plot when I began, but I don't know if this was it. I know there will be a love connection (with that Rochester fellow when he shows up), but he is no where to be found just yet. I am anxious to see what kind of man is a match for Jane.
In any case, I am looking forward to my adventure with young Charlotte Bronte. I am already half in love with the novel, the writing, and the ability Charlotte has to create a perfectly likable character, who is strong and independent. We will just have to see if that feeling continues as I move forward.