It seems like I've been reading Jane Eyre forever but I finally finished it last night. My paperback copy is so old it only cost 60 cents. The print was tiny and the pages were a little brown, but my eyes survived the ordeal and I learned that, with maturity and patience, I really like this book.
The book requires patience because of the writing style of Bronte's era. In the beginning Jane is only 10 years old, yet she thinks and speaks in an adult manner. She says her future is too uncertain for conjecture, for instance. She studies faces of the other orphans and their teachers at Lowood Institute and describes individually each feature, nose, lips, hair, hands, etc. Each feature tells her something about the character of the person she observes, and that does get somewhat tiring at times. Not to worry, though; you can skim and not miss a thing.
Jane is an orphan whose kindly uncle has undertaken to give her a home and raise her. Then he dies and his horrid widow treats Jane wickedly, while brainwashing the little girl into thinking herself evil. Finally, escape comes in the form of being sent to Lowood where the children are underfed, taken outdoors in winter without warm clothing, and strictly monitored 24 hours a day.
As Jane becomes an adult she finds a position as governess to one child in the home of Mr. Edward Rochester on a large estate. I think most people know that she and Rochester fall in love but there is an unsurpassable burden in the way of marriage; he already has a wife - the madwoman in the attic.
Margaret, of BooksPlease, has said that reading this as a youngster she was terrified of the madwoman in the attic. Frankly, I was nervous as to what the woman was capable of. After all, she did set fire to the bedcurtains in Rochester's room one night. From the time Jane arrives at this estate the story gets better and better. There are coincidences that are unbelievable but I think that was common in Bronte's day, and therefore forgivable.
Reading Jane Eyre has convinced me to go back and reread or read for the first time many other classic novels so I'll be reviewing a classic now and then. Hopefully the rest of them will have a bit larger print.