I was slightly reluctant to read Jane Eyre. In the past I have had bad expieriences with what people would deem 'intellectual' books and wrongly dub as 'contemporary classics', but I can honestly say that Jane Eyre deserves to be referred to as a classic.
It is written in an autobiographical style and tells the story of Jane Eyre (obviously), who was orphaned at an early age and taken in by her uncle, Mr. Reed, who shortly also died, leaving her in the care of her cruel Aunt, Mrs. Reed, and at the mercy of her malicious cousin, John Reed. However, at the age of ten Jane Eyre leaves the Reed household to attent a charity boarding school known as Lowood where she befriends the mild mannered Helen Burns and gains the education that allows her, at the age of eighteen, to take a position as a Governess at Thornfield Hall. Here she meets the 'dark and sardonic' Mr. Rochester and falls in love with him. But alas, their union is not to be when Jane discovers a dark secret of Mr. Rochester's that forces her to leave Thornfield Hall and her chance of happiness as a married woman.
I will not go into the plot any longer, in case of spoiling the ending, but there are many aspects of the book that I was shocked to see in a novel written back in the 1800's. One that was not so surprising however, was the religious and moral references that frequently crop up, but don't be deceived into thinking that Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester and all other lead chracters are pious and preachy with the shared desire to 'do the right thing'. Jane does try to do what's right, but Mr. Rochester is often sly and occasionally seems cruel. He is far from a typical 'hero'.
And Jane is far from the typical heroine. This is what I believe makes the book so refreshing despite the fact it was written such a long time ago. Bronte takes pains to impress upon the reader that Jane is no beauty (and nor is Mr. Rochester) and while Jane eventually forgives Mrs. Reed and those who did her wrong, she is often wilful and passionate in her search for independence. While reading the book you really get to know Jane and start to care about her. The whole way through this book all I wanted was for Jane and Mr. Rochester to finally get together. You can fully understand Jane's dismay when she comes up against obstacles that hinder this.
The book is divided into three volumes. The first two volumes are absoultely exquisite, and so it the end of the third volume, however the beginning of volume three does drag on a bit.
I would recommend this book to anybody who loves classics, and to the rest who are scared (such as I was) to start reading them. Jane Eyre was my gateway into the world of old English literature.