Imagine getting this book after having to read Jane Austen as an assignment. You have gotten a taste of the female writing in the 19th century - or so you think. The first thing that strikes you is that the writing - while certainly not fully up to the modern standard of prose - this is close to an actual, happy-time reading experience. The writing is mainly straight forward, and therefore the reading pace is also straightforward and steady.
A Cinderella story quickly turns into something quite else - and we get the first big surprise in this story when we go through the very first chapter in the book. I refuse to spoil anything about what is now one of my favorite classics, so I won't say what happens, other than Jane is not at all the type of person that she may first appear to be.
As the hero in a journey of self-discovery, Jane proves to be an overwhelmingly worthy one. As a character, she's one of the most modern things I have ever experienced from the 19th century. I could see her fitting in very well with a lot of the really cooler characters in A Song of Ice and Fire - she's not a shockingly, amazingly, downright angelic beauty, and oh damn is she witty and tough.
Jane basically gives very little fucks. Oh, she certainly gives fucks, but I'll be damned if it's unlikely that you would receive one. She's not an unrealistic badass, however - you experience everything that goes into what made her into her adult self.
I could go on about Jane herself, but I'll save time and energy by simply stating, once and for all, that you just need to experience her character yourself to understand the hype. Well, my hype.
The other major character of note (well, that I have time and patience to mention) is the striking, iconic character known simply as Mr. Rochester. A testament to the fact that ladies, for some reason, just love a work-in-progress when it comes to a relationship, this guy is often given more attention to the titular hero. That, however, is pure bullshit, at Jane is ten times more interesting to the obsessive, older and shadowy Mr. Rochester.
This is all a very good, very much fully in the grey story of the inner journey of Jane and the tentative, all-too unlikely love that she finds along the way.
If I had a problem, it would be that some of the scenes do stretch out for longer than they need to, I don't give two dried shits about the annoyance/plot device known as Adele and that Jane does soften from her whole "OG Badass" status as the story progresses. I get really annoyed when she gets berated way later in the book by some holier-than-thou turd who just doesn't know when it shut the fuck up, and that part of the story in particular goes on for a LONG time.
Bottom line, though, is that I really love this book, I would re-read it before I read another Jane Austen willingly (possibly never?). It is certainly a product of its time, but it is a shockingly bad-ass, forward-thinking piece that makes my inner feminist squee in glee.
I never believe in classics being allowed to rest on their laurels, in term of offering entertainment value to the contemporary audience. A book may have introduced a concept for the first time it has ever appeared in the world - think Dracula - but it may not be anything more than a sticking pile of shit, in the sense that it provides real entertainment value to anyone but a hipster or a lit. major with some serious blinders on. Like Dracula. Jane Eyre is a ground-breaking story, as well as an very entertaining one, even to this day. You either care about Jane as a character, or your heart is just fucking made of stone.
What Will I Do With My Copy: Keep it, re-read it maybe a few years down the line.
Pictured: Jane Eyre. Not pictured: Any fucks to be given