-by Charlotte Brontë
ISBN-10: 1593081170 / ISBN-13: 978-1593081171
594 Pages (2005) Barnes & Noble Classics
My Rating: 5 / 5
a timeless classic
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a well-loved contribution to British classic literature, not only conjures images of mysterious gothic edifices and windswept moors, but more importantly, traverses the immeasurable depths of human emotion and its relation to the rigid social structure of the 19th Century. An exceptional amalgamation of ardent sentiment, extraordinary yet accessible characters, mystifying somber ambiance, and intelligent prose, Jane Eyre, is every bit as enrapturing as it was upon its first publication in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Company of London.
Orphaned as an infant, spirited 10-year-old Jane Eyre is sent to live with her rich relatives at Gateshead. Her aunt, Mrs. Reed, who had formerly promised her husband on his deathbed to love and treat Jane as one of her own, outwardly treats her adoptive niece with contempt. Reed’s own children, torment and treat Jane with hostility, constantly reminding her that she is destitute and reliant, and at their family’s mercy. Ultimately finding the antagonistic treatment insupportable, Jane resolves to stand up for herself, ending in a physical altercation with her vindictive cousin, John. She held accountable for instigating the clash and is severely castigated by her Aunt Reed. At the suggestion of a kind-hearted physician, Mr. Lloyd, Jane is sent away to Lowood School, a charity institution for orphan girls, run by Mr. Brocklehurst, in the hopes that she can escape her unhappiness at Gateshead and attain a sensible education. Jane’s Aunt Reed seems happy to be rid of her troublesome “possessed” niece, and instigates the cruel and unyielding Brocklehurst to keep her “in line” – singling her out from her peers, for discipline and ridicule.
Despite continually being made the target of the mean-hearted minister’s ire, Jane makes two special friends – a teacher, Miss Temple, and fellow student Helen Burns, who is eventually overcome by the poor living conditions and a typhoid epidemic that sweeps through the school. Due to the growing public outcry of the terrible conditions at Lowood, the school gradually is improved. Jane excels in her studies and flourishes in the improved surroundings, attaining a respectable education and becoming a teacher at the school. At age 18 she decides to advertise. As a result of her self-sufficient resourcefulness, Jane obtains a post as a governess and tutor at Thornfield, a sprawling country estate. She is warmly welcomed by the estate’s the friendly housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. As the months pass, the estate owner’s ward, Adèle Varens — a 10-year-old French girl of dubious parentage — begins to excel under Jane’s watchful eye and tutelage.
Walking to Thornfield one misty evening, Jane quite literally stumbles upon, Mr. Edward Rochester returning home from a long absence — the owner of Thornfield and her employer — a rugged, brooding man in his late-thirties. Although often aloof and “changeable”, Rochester is gradually bewitched by this young “other worldly” governess, and the two steadily form an unlikely attachment. Thus begins the greatest romance in literature. As the astounding drama unfolds, Jane also discovers that Thornfield harbors a secret…one that will change her life forever.
Brontë’s acute consciousness and understanding of the complexity of human emotions lends an unrivaled splendor and depth to Jane Eyre. She artfully molds what is a fundamentally mournful account into a tale of hope and happiness, imbuing it with vibrant, albeit succinct, metaphors of man’s immense capacity for kindness, decency and love.
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- reviewed for Sterling Publishing Co., NY