I grew up in Europe, (not the UK), so I was never forced to read the great classics in school or taught their significance, only achieving a reluctant enjoyment in the process. However, I wanted to see what was considered feminism in that time and how that translated to this day for someone who was not beaten over the head with the greatness of this work, through her formative years.
The story follows the title character through her life as she grows from a young girl, resentful of her unfair, spiteful aunt and cousins, to a young woman, finding love and betrayal, real family and independence.
For those who know little of the work, a word of warning: the story starts up slow; though what happens as she grows up, is by no means boring, it is long-winded, mostly due to the descriptions and in there lies my primary gripe with this work: Describing the surroundings.
The story itself is engaging and full of unexpected twists and turns but at times it seems Ms. Brontë was carried away with describing a particular room or the landscape, which sometimes leads to 5 pages verbally painting the setting for five paragraphs of actual plot progressions, sometimes spread out, decently but mostly placed in the end or the beginning.
Now, the descriptions themselves are beautiful and enthralling but I often found that after each and every little thing being thus worded I became weary of the picture it painted and nothing stuck, anymore, other than a few significant landmarks.
The biggest problem was that it was very condensed, most of the time, so I would skip forward a bit to see how many more pages I had to wade through, telling me how magical a particular piece of shrubbery looked in the blue light of a full moon before something actually happened.
It may be that I'm a victim of my generation and therefore blind to the splendor this heavy element adds to the novel but it frankly took from my enjoyment of the story rather than whetting my appetite and aiding my mental imagery.
Other than that, the story is obviously a classic and with good reason, showing a woman who stays true to herself throughout her trials and is rewarded in the end with happiness and prosperity. The story has a lot of layers and depth to it that are a joy to peel away to discover the deeper meaning behind a character's actions and words.
Of this I have two (very minor) complaints:
One is the level of convenient coincidences that befall Jane, especially regarding her uncle, John Eyre, and other relatives whom she 'just' happens upon.
Two is the lack of flaws in Jane's adult character. She is only eighteen yet it often seems that she is superior to her elders in many ways and I felt there was a lack of realism to this personality as she never seems to need to check herself but can freely find faults in others.
However, these did no retract from the enjoyment of the story being told and I was happy I read it. I particularly like the banter between Jane and Mr. Rochester, it seemed very natural and fresh and sometimes extremely endearing.
I can recommend it to those who feel like reading classics but for those who are not too fond of long-winded description, I would recommend to either find an abridged version or set their sights on something with better pacing. A very moving romance with engaging characters.