Jane Eyre has long been one of my favorite reads. I first read the novel when I was ten years old, but of course at that time much of the richness of the novel was beyond my understanding. Still, something about the story grabbed me, and has never let go. Since that time, I have found myself eagerly devouring its pages at least once each year, if not more frequently. As I write this, I have at least three editions of this masterpiece tucked away on my shelf, ready to grab should the urge overcome me.

I have also viewed with pleasure every film adaptation I could get my hands on. The picture at left is from my favorite, the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre production starring Toby Stephens as the enigmatic Mr. Rochester, and Ruth Wilson as the passionate and steadfast heroine. If you haven't watched this version, rent it! I have also listened to several audio book productions of the novel, some of which were quite good, but none which really stood out in my memory. That is, until recently.

Librivox asks volunteers to record books that are in the public domain in an audio format, and then provides those books for the listening pleasure of the general public. Each and every audio book offered on Librivox is offered free of charge, and can be downloaded without restriction or restraint. Recently, anxious to return to the story of Jane Eyre yet again, I downloaded one of Librivox's versions of Jane Eyre, recorded by Elizabeth Klett. Imagine my surprise when I found myself listening to what I had always imagined Jane's voice to be. This recording, in my opinion, exceeds any of the professionally produced versions of the novel that I have listened to in the past. Klett perfectly captures each nuance of the story, and the characters came alive for me in a way that they never had before. If you love Jane Eyre, as I do, let me encourage you to give this version a listen and see if you aren't impressed!

You can download the audio book here. Librivox offers lots of options. You can download the entire file, jump to a chapter at will, or subscribe to a chapter a day. You can also find Elizabeth Klett's other recordings for Librivox here. Since finishing Elizabeth's version of Jane Eyre, I have listened to her recordings of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both of which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

I was so impressed with Elizabeth's recording, that I wanted to know more about her, and her recording process. Elizabeth was kind enough to respond to an email filled with all sorts of impertinent questions.

Q: How long have you been a Librivox volunteer? How many recordings have you done? How many solo recordings?

A: I've been a LibriVox volunteer for two years. I've done 16 solo projects - 8 long novels, 4 long poem sequences, and 4 novellas. I've also played some fun roles in group dramatic recordings: Lady Macbeth in "Macbeth," Nora in "A Doll's House," and Jaques in "As You Like It." Forthcoming are Gertrude in "Hamlet," Miranda in "The Tempest" and Jessica in "The Merchant of Venice."

Q: What has been your favorite project to date?

A: Favorite project... hmmm, that's a hard one. It's probably a tie between "Howards End," "The House of Mirth," and "Jane Eyre." Although I love doing the Austen novels, too. In fact, I'm probably going to do another Austen next - probably "Emma."

Q: Why were you interested in completing a solo reading of "Jane Eyre"? Is there anything particular which interests you about this book?

A: "Jane Eyre" was a special project. It's long been one of my favorite novels, as well as one of my mom's favorite novels. I wanted to do the project partially for her, since the book means so much to her. We visited Haworth, in north Yorkshire (the Brontes' birthplace) while I was living in England in 1997. We walked on the moors together and had a great time. I'll also be teaching "Jane Eyre" for the first time this fall, which I'm very excited about.

Q: You seem very comfortable giving each character a different voice. Do you have any training in theater? Do you ever find yourself getting confused when you are recording?

A: I did theatre for a long time: in high school, college, and grad school. I did a double major in Theatre Arts and English, and for a long time wanted to be an actor. LibriVox provides an outlet for my desire to perform, since at this point in my life doing theatre isn't really practical (mostly because it takes up way too much time). I love doing the different voices for the characters, and for the most part I can keep everyone straight. The only project where I started to get mixed up was Fanny Burney's "Evelina," where there were just too many male fop characters to give them all truly distinct voices.

Q: The French passages in Jane Eyre are beautifully read in your recording. Do you speak French?

A: Thanks! I studied French for eight years in high school and college. But that was a while ago, so my French is pretty poor now. If I had more time I'd love to study it again; it's a beautiful language.

Q: How long does it typically take you to complete a solo project?

A: It depends on the length of the project. I just did "The Return of the Soldier" in about a month, but that's because it only had 6 chapters. Longer novels can take anywhere from 3-6 months, depending on how many different projects I've got going at the same

Q: What do you enjoy most about recording audio books?

A: Recording audio books allows me to engage with a text in a different way. Most of the books I've read are favorites of mine, and I've also taught a few of them in my classes (I'm an English professor). But reading them aloud makes me emotionally connected to a text in a new way. For example, when I was recording "The House of Mirth," I felt far more sympathetic to Lily Bart than I did while reading the novel initially, because I was playing her and not just reading about her. So that's really wonderful. But I also love getting feedback from listeners who tell me that they enjoy my recordings; that's very rewarding. I love the idea of bringing these books to people and enlivening their commutes, travels, hospital stays, and leisure time.

Q: Do you have any favorite audio books, from Librivox or elsewhere, that you would recommend?

A: I'm a big fan of Karen Savage's LibriVox recordings, such as "Pride and Prejudice," "A Little Princess," and "The Railway Children." I also really enjoy listening to David Sedaris read his own work. My husband and I also love listening to P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves and Wooster" stories, preferably read by Jonathan Cecil.

Q: I read on your blog that you have small children. When and how do you find the time to read and record?

A: I have a 7-month-old baby, and I'll admit, finding the time to record since her birth has been challenging. She heard all of "Jane Eyre" and some of "Sense and Sensibility" in utero! Right now I don't have any lengthy projects going. I'm coordinating my first group dramatic recording (John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi") and just finished "The Return of the Soldier," which was short. I used to have many different projects going at once, but that's no longer practical. Basically I fit it in during nap times and after she's in bed for the night. If I do start "Emma" soon, it'll likely take me quite a while - maybe even the rest of this year - to complete.

Q: Do you rehearse the passages prior to recording?

A: Not really. I probably should; they'd be better! I sometimes do a few takes of a particular passage, though, and then edit out the bad ones.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for someone interested in volunteering for Librivox?

A: I'd suggest starting small, with a few poems for one of the poetry collections, and/or a few chapters for one of the group recordings. But I also suggest diving right in and getting involved as soon as you feel comfortable with how things work. Everyone on LibriVox, especially the admins, are very nice, friendly, and helpful. It's a truly collegial community.

I'd like to thank Elizabeth for her willingness to answer the questions of a stranger. If you are interested in learning more about Elizabeth Klett, you can also visit her website A Mingled Yarn.
4 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    That is quite an undertaking! Thank you for the interview and information about the site. I'll have to check it out.
    Your post initially caught my eye because I just started watching this movie version of Jane Eyre. I've only made it about 30 minutes in, so I will reserve my judgement til I'm done. And then you'll hear about it on my blog!

  2. Hilarie Says:

    You can be sure I'll be checking in to see what you thought!

  3. Thanks for recommending this on Ravelry! I have been knitting and listening to this excellent recording of Jane Eyre all weekend! I enjoyed reading your interview. This latest version on film is new to me, so I will definitely look for it!

  4. I am LOVING listening to Elizabeth Klett reading Jane Eyre. Loving it.

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