Paper Views: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I know that my blog has kind of been all over the place this summer thanks to a dangerous combination of my various trips and general laziness, but hopefully now that I’m back at sixth form for my last year of school (eek) I can get back in the swing of things, and the holiday has meant that I’ve plenty of books of which to impart my professional opinion on for you. The first of these, and one that I wasn’t exactly eagerly anticipating reading, was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, one of the classics that was suggested reading for my A2 Literature course. Now, I don’t know if I’m the only one that had these preconceptions, but I was expecting this to be one of those novels full of wishy-washy lovey-dovey characters without any real plot line that anyone of our time can relate to (yes, this is exactly what I thought about Pride and Prejudice). I have to say, a few pages in and I was pleasantly surprised- the protagonist and the book’s namesake is a women who is independent-minded right from childhood and finds her way in the world without the help of any man- something that is refreshing to see in a book of that era.

It’s not until at least halfway through the story that you start to see a romance forming, and it is certainly not one of nature typical of romance novels; Rochester is moody and brooding and actually kind of ugly- something which only serves to make the characters more humbling and relatable. Described as something of a gothic novel, Jane Eyre definitely has more depth to it than the perhaps more commonly read Pride and Prejudice, and if you were going to read one of the two I would certainly recommend the former. Whilst I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite book that I’ve ever read, it completely surpassed my expectations and managed to be funny, gripping and profound in ways that I never expected. Definitely one to add to the bookshelf.

Paper Views: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

I’ve been writing these reviews for a few weeks now, so I thought it was about time to tell you about probably my favourite book of all time- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskindy. This was a book that was recommended by my English teacher who raved about it so much that I just had to go out and read it for myself… and let’s just say I was blown away.

Without going into the plot in too much detail, the novel is set in eighteenth century France and centres around the unusual (to put it mildly) character of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is born and promptly abandoned, left as a newborn on the streets of Paris. The book takes no time at all with introducing the abnormal atmosphere around which this odd tale is constructed, with the introduction of the key theme: smell. Jean-Baptiste, known better as Grenouille, is a child born without a scent, yet with the keenest nose in existence nonetheless- something that is the cause of great unease from everyone he meets, meaning that his childhood was spent being passed around between carers. That is, however, until he finds himself working as an apprentice for Baldini, a master perfumer in Paris. By this point it is apparent that Grenouille has an unusually twisted relationship with scents, which proves to be almost perverse when he hunts down a particularly beautiful scent of a young girl, who later ends up as his first of many murders.

I feel like I’ve already given a lot of the plot away, but that’s only the first part of the book so definitely go read it to find out the ending, especially because I feel like I’ve severely depreciated the genius of this intricate plot! Seriously though, I think it’s an injustice that not everyone has heard of this novel; creating something this unique and thought provoking is pretty unusual in this day and age (this was actually written in the 80s) so  I personally believe we should grab every opportunity we find. So although it may not be the happiest story line and “not my kind of thing”, in the words of Rainbow Rowell, “art isn’t supposed to look nice, it’s supposed to make you feel something”. Which is exactly what this book does.