As someone who reads consistently, I was quite ashamed to say that this was a book I hadn't read. I have a vague memory of attempted to start it when I was about fifteen, and giving up after about six pages, full of impatience. However, I picked it up again on the recommendation of my friend, and it's one of the best reading discoveries I've had for a while - I'm starting to see a theme with why 'classics' are classics!
Jane Eyre starts by describing Jane's childhood, spend with her aunt, uncle and cousins, as she has been orphaned. When her uncle is on his deathbed, he makes his wife promise to treat Jane as one of her own family, and its a promise that she bitterly regrets making, as she greatly dislikes Jane and favours her own children, to the point where she ends up sending Jane to boarding school, as she no longer wants her at home.
We follow Jane through her time at Lowood, where she has a rough beginning, but grows to love the school as it becomes the home she never had, due to a particular teacher. However, when that teacher leaves, Jane feels that it is time to move on, and applies to be a governess, which is when we start getting to the heart of the story...
Jane describes herself in fairly derogatory terms, although her narration of the story shows the wit and intelligence that lies within the character, along with the goodness of her personality. Always self-deprecating, she tries her best to be honest with people, which sometimes leads to a lack of tact, as shown in one of the first scenes when she meets Mr Rochester and describes him as being ugly - to his face.
Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester, of course, is Jane's new boss, and the owner of Thornfield Hall, as well as starting off as a thoroughly mysterious character. However, as time goes on, the pair become closer and closer, and Jane thrives in Thornfield Hall, despite some strange happenings that occur. They enjoy teasing each other, which leads on to a proposal that sound absolutely horrific when taken out of context without reading the book;
You-- you strange, you almost unearthly thing!--I love as my own flesh. You--poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are--I entreat to accept me as a husband."
Believe it or not, this is actually a romantic speech, but it is much longer and is really best understood in the context of the whole book. I found it interesting as I had seen that snippet before, and enjoyed reading it in the context, as it made much better sense!
Needless to say, there are plenty of twists and turns that still lie ahead of Jane at this point, involving arson, a suicide, homelessness, a new family, another wedding proposal and a reunion with an unexpected character.... but you should go and read that for yourself!
I've also seen that there is a prequel of sorts to Jane Eyre, which is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which deals more with the world of the original Mrs Rochester, but I haven't been so tempted to pick that up yet. If anyone has read it and would recommend it, please let me know!
As for Jane Eyre, this classic definitely stands the test of time - three stars!!