Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There is a distinct autumnal chill in the air. The brief warmth that flared up at the end of last month has fizzled out as quickly as it appeared, and Autumn is well and truly upon us, necessitating the purchase of cosy winter coats. So what better way to pass a wet October Saturday afternoon, for a girl temporarily without a husband and with absolutely no plans, than sitting alone in the darkness with nothing but her wildly beating heart to keep her company as a tragic love story unfolds across a silver screen?

No, I did not go to see Johnny English Reborn. I went to see Jane Eyre. And I adored it.

From the muted colour palette and spine-crushing corsetry to the restrained passion of the central performances, everything about it is beautifully understated. I was utterly spellbound from start to finish and actually continued to wander around in a dream for a good two hours afterwards. So much so that, as I strolled through the shops in a cinematically-induced dwam, I found myself inexplicably lusting after dresses such as these: 

I can't imagine why.

And the lusting didn't end there. I hesitate to admit this, but I don't think I've ever read Jane Eyre, nor have I read Wuthering Heights (oh, the shame), so I spent much of the first half of the film trying to remember which of them was the crazy-first-wife-in-the-attic one. That question was answered soon enough, and promptly replaced by far more pressing issues: namely, where can I find myself a Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester and can I get him to run away with me immediately?

Byronic heroes are a bit of a weakness of mine (in literary terms, you understand). One only has to glance at a list of typical traits to understand why. "Intelligent and perceptive". "Self-critical and introspective". "Mysterious, magnetic and charismatic". "Seductive and sexually attractive". "Having a troubled past or suffering from an unnamed crime". Hello, bad boy. Mix in a bit of period style (floppy hair, billowing sleeves, offensively long sideburns) and SWOON.

I frequently find myself indulging in full-length romantic fantasies involving whichever brooding antihero has most recently leapt off the pages of a book and swept me off my metaphorical feet. Hell, even Edward Cullen would do in a pinch. Two souls yearning for each other, smouldering declarations of love, some sort of unexpected tragedy and maybe a bit of riding around on a horse looking manly. Isn't that what a perfect romance should look like?

Well, maybe.

But what happens after the last page has been turned, the last frame has faded from the screen? Most of these epic, tortured romances culminate in a wedding, an engagement, or some similar declaration of everlasting love. Cue passionate snoggage and ebullient strings, as the camera pans away across the windswept moors. The End. Except it's not the end, is it?

I find myself wondering what sort of a husband Rochester would make. Would he leave his friends and drive across town to let me in when I forget my keys? Would he randomly send me a link to over 200 quotations about dogs? Would he remember to put the bins out?

When I first met my husband, he had, or so I thought, a touch of the Byronic hero about him. He didn't go to classes, which of course meant he must be a sexy, rebellious outlaw. He wasn't overtly flirtatious with me, which of course meant he must be a brooding, enigmatic brute who was secretly in love with me. He even had some pretty serious sideburns, which meant he was, well, stuck in the 90s, but you can't have everything.

I now know that he was, in fact, just a little lost when it came to his degree, and to crazy girls who followed him around like a sad puppy, and to facial grooming. Fin has never told me he wants me for my soul - I'm pretty sure he wants me for my macaroni cheese. When he proposed, it wasn't like this. It was like this.

Because married life is not a romantic novel, much as I might occasionally dream it to be so. It is a nothing more than a series of days, strung together like a row of pearls. Each one is subtly different - some glow a little brighter, some are dulled by the patina of time - but, from a distance, they all look much the same. It is in the uniformity and in the whole, not in any one component, that the real beauty lies.

Marie recently quoted Jeffrey Eugenides on marriage. He wrote, "to be happy you have to find variety in repetition", and it's lingered with me since. I think there is certainly some truth in it; swooning won't last forever. Frankly it would just get exhausting. And from what I've experienced so far of marriage, the small daily acts of love are worth a thousand grand gestures or passionate speeches.

But even a married lady is allowed to spend an occasional rainy afternoon swooning over a hot man in a pair of breeches, no?

Dresses by Louche, available at Joy. All images from Jane Eyre

10 boats moored

  1. Oh those dresses. I tried to read Jane Eyre, but had to stop. Wuthering Heights I've read.
    Love period films, the fields, the flowers, the drama...
    And yeah, autumn arrived huh... just wrote about it too actually.
    And this : "the small daily acts of love are worth a thousand grand gestures or passionate speeches." is exactly it.

  2. I read Jane Eyre and loved it. So... How come I ended up missing the movie on cinemas?? Stupid me. I was angry enough, now you made it worst! Just so you know, I'm slapping myself right now.

  3. I was about to say something intelligent about your pearl paragraph which I thought was just an utterly lovely description of marriage but you distracted me with that last picture of fassbender's arse...

  4. Be-fecking-yootiful writing, Kirsty. Really.

    I wanted to get married on a windswept cliff and to ride a horse to my ceremony. Wearing a ripped wedding dress and Dr Martins. Mr K did not. He does not have an ounce of whimsy in him, however much I wish for him to don a pair of breeches. He makes a better husband than Rochester, I'm convinced. However, I wouldn't say no to a romp in a deserted stately home with Rochester. Pre-fire. Just saying.

  5. Something tells me that the Edwards of the world (if they really exist) would not be so great at getting the dishes done, or making coffee in the mornings, watching bad reality tv on the couch, all of which are pre-requisites for being any husband of mine! Although, it would be pretty great if he could do all that but still have floppy hair, billowing sleeves, and offensively long sideburns ha.

  6. Oh Kiara you make me laugh.

    See this is why I love blogging - it's nice to know I'm not the only one whose idea of a total hottie is a 19th century fictional character (and, admittedly, a 21st century Irish actor, but really he's incidental. It's Rochester who's the hunk. Yes I said hunk).

  7. This is a great piece of writing Kirsty - know how I know that? I'm not really into period romances in general but this just made me want to go out and read/rent Jane Eyre.

  8. I watched Jane Eyre, then I watched it a second time. It was hot. Even more it was beautifully shot. The chemistry between Jane & Rochester is perfect. Also: Michael Fassbender... he makes me feel week kneed in a way that I didn't know I still had in me. Did you know that he's starring in an erotic film called Shame? Oh yes he is. You're welcome.

  9. I first read Jane Eyre when I was a teenager and loved it. I didn't like Mr. Rochester that much (he seemed sort of scary, as far as boyfriend material), but I loved the romance of the situation. Read all of Jane Austen around the same time and became a huge fan... spent a lot of time wishing I could go back in time and find Mr. Knightley.

    But now that I'm older, I also wonder what it'd REALLY be like to marry some of these heroes. I can't see Mr. Rochester helping with the grocery shopping or Mr. Darcy attending Christmas dinner with the in-laws without rolling his eyes or storming out of the house.

    Have you see this comic strip? Cracked me up: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=202

  10. I know I ought to be distracted by the ostentatious sideburns and breeches, but I was instead distracted by my sheer delight in reading as you wove several threads of thought together to make a fantastic frock of a post.

    Well done!