Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 5 of 5 stars.
Jane Eyre is the single most mesmerizing novel I've ever read. The voice is rich and conversational with enough darkness to keep you on the edge of your seat. The book was literally glued to my hands the entire time I read it. I couldn't get over little Jane Eyre's deep and sometimes rather dangerous thoughts. The musings of the writer that dealt such universal and frightening truths.
I've never been a huge fan of the brooding, scary male lead. Like Mr. Darcy for instance. Yeah, sure, Colin Firth made him awesome, but he really wasn't all that wonderful in the book. However, there was something vastly different about Mr. Rochester. Everybody says he isn't a loveable character, but I think just the opposite. He's not dark and scary all of the time, there is a levity to him that takes away from his gruffness. And then, of course, the man has been hurt so many times in his life. Despite (in most cases) trying to do the right and honorable thing, he finds himself in one horrible position right after the other. It makes you want to cheer for him despite his pride and arrogance.
Jane is also, officially, one of my favorite heroines. Her unique way of thinking and independence made me want to keep listening to her. I was terribly disappointed when the book ended. She was strong, courageous but also gentle and kind. You don't find that in many modern heroines. The way she stood up to St. John was incredible. Jane will take a lot, but in the end she will let no one trample over her. Jane talks about needing a person with a strong will around her, as though she doesn't have one of her own. But Mr. Rochester recognizes the indomitable strength within her.
My favorite parts of the book were the verbal sparring matches between Jane and Mr. Rochester. They are a bit hard to keep up with but absolutely hilarious (and at times frightening) if you can. Its remarkable how well matched the two are in intellect and it adds considerably to the strength of their bond.
This book is the kind of love story that you don't necessarily want in your own life. Its full of heartbreak, secrets, and more pain then any two people deserve. It is what's at the heart of this love story that makes us crave it for ourselves. It is the fact that these two remarkably similar people, these kindred spirits could find each other that makes us want a love like that between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. That they--in the end--could reach beyond social and economical barriers and be together is the beauty of it.
I have heard some say that Rochester's wife being locked in the attic is symbolic of the way women were treated at the time. I don't believe that. I don't think there is anything really symbolic about it, though there may be some parrallels with insanity or a person not being virtuous at all. As I see this part in the story, I think that the way Rochester treated Bertha Mason was the kindest thing he could do. He had been through so much and could have basically left her at any of his other estates (or sent her to an asylum which, during that time period, would have been far more cruel) instead he kept her where he could watch over her and where she would be taken care of. Even when she was nothing more than a burden and a danger to his happiness and his life, he kept her.
Charlotte Bronte crafted a novel that could withstand the test of time and leave its reader with love for the characters long after the story had ended. Her gothic prose and rich description make the story a masterpiece.
Below I have embedded a trailer for the latest screen adaptation of Jane Eyre though I have not had a chance of seeing it myself yet. My favorite out of the ones I have seen is the 1983 version.