Date of Publication: 1848 (my edition, 2001, W.W. Norton & Co.)
Number of Pages: 385
Synopsis (from Amazon.com): Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor—qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved?
Review: Charlotte Brontë skillfully weaves together a memorable study of a woman’s life, from childhood to adulthood, and of the unique challenges she faces. Jane Eyre is a wholly unprotected young woman, forced to make her way in the world in the only position she can respectfully acquire: that of a governess. Brontë herself was a governess and understood the distinct misery such a situation can cause. A governess in the Victorian age was a woman in social limbo: she was held to be above the station of the servants, meaning she was not accepted into their society (it would appear insultingly condescending on her part), and yet underneath the status of the family, who would shun her. A governess was one of the loneliest women in the world. Luckily for Jane Eyre, she is welcomed into the limited society at Thornfield and is even held in affection by her young French pupil. However, her world is turned upside-down upon the return of Mr. Rochester to his home. The bond between the tortured master and his young, inexperienced governess is strong and immediate, and the passion that grows between them is inevitable and consuming.
I would not dream of spoiling the delicious mystery and dramatic plot by saying much more. One can easily get carried away when discussing this book. I will say, however, that the book is beautifully written, if somewhat preachy, and the characters themselves are remarkably believable. No one is perfect in this book. Mr. Rochester is domineering, Jane herself is a little too morally strict for modern tastes, and many of the other characters, most notably St. John Rivers, have obvious flaws. This all combines to make the story, which is fiercely romantic, much more accessible than it otherwise could have been. I believe that any reader of both Victorian literature and modern romances and mysteries will enjoy this enduring classic.