I wasn’t going out of my way to watch another Jane Eyre adaptation. But when you walk into the library and it’s the first thing you see, you think the universe is trying to tell you something.
In this case it was the BBC television series from 2006 starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. The adaptation was well received by critics as being fairly faithful to the book. It was nominated for and won several BAFTA and Primetime Emmy Awards.
The series is almost 4 hours long and I had to watch it over three viewings (such is life with kids), but it was very satisfying for me as a fan of Jane Eyre. A series is a nice treat because the story isn’t as rushed. I had a chance to understand some things I missed in the book, such as all the talk about twins representing the supernatural love connection between Jane and Rochester. I also liked that the series embellished scenes with the two lovers to emphasize it was the real deal. I have always felt there was not enough romance in the book convince me Jane and Rochester were actually in love.
Physically, Ruth Wilson is not “mousy” as we know our beloved heroine, so I felt she was lacking some vulnerability. However, she’s a very good actress and excellently conveyed all of Jane’s intelligence and strength.
As for Toby Stephens … wow! He brought Mr. Rochester to life for me and made me see what so many have known forever. Mr. Rochester is awesome! I didn’t get it when I read the book and I came around a little when I watched the 2011 movie, but I finally saw through Mr. Stephens’ performance the arrogance and humour masking Rochester’s fear, regret and self-hatred.
Comparison to the book
The series covered the parts of the book that I felt were important with the exception of rushing through Jane’s friendship with Helen Burns (they meet and she dies within 5 minutes) and completely omitting the influence of her teacher, Miss Temple. I felt this way about the 2011 adaptation I watched back in April. But despite these misgivings, I agreed with condensing Jane’s time with the Rivers family and focusing on her relationship with Mr. Rochester.
Of course, I missed Jane’s poetic narration, her witty and intelligent observations. I missed hearing how she was feeling in a moment, especially how she felt about people like Blanche Ingram. As much as the read-the-book-first rule is hard to follow, you wouldn’t appreciate watching the story without having read the book.
Comparison to the 2011 movie
In my April review, I concluded that the movie starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender was not a great adaptation of Jane Eyre. Comparing the movie to this BBC series, I can definitely say the series does a better job telling Jane’s story. The movie is entertaining and the actors competent, but I realize now how much of the story was missing. However, both adaptations do not shortchange you on romantic scenes (or bare chests).
The BBC version of Jane Eyre is really good! I recommend it over the 2011 movie (sorry Michael Fassbender) as it is very loyal to the book. It will definitely please any fan.
The read-the-book-first rule is hard to follow because it’s clear I understand the story better when I can see the action unfold. I feel like I can appreciate Jane Eyre even more now that I have two adaptations under my belt. I could possibly become an Eyreaholic … who would’ve thunk?