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One of the classics that I somehow never read in high school, I finally decided to read this book now, mostly so I could read "The Eyre Affair," and understand any "in-jokes" that might be present.

I enjoyed the book, but didn't love it. Partly, this might be because I knew how it was going to end, since I'd watched the Orson Welles film a few months ago. But it was also in part due to the prose. The story was interesting, although at times I felt there was too much detail, too much density in the text. Just too many words. It took me a long time to read this book, longer than I expected, and at times I just wanted things to move a bit faster.

Warning: the rest of this review contains SPOILERS

I wasn't always certain that I really liked Jane, but by the end I decided that I did. It's not so much a story of a woman learning to be strong - for she was strong from the beginning. What she does learn, I think, is to believe that she deserves love and happiness. There is also a sense that she finds her faith boosted by the fact that good things do happen when she stands by her principles, even though it seems at first that they've all gone very, very wrong. She has some scary moments there, near the end, though, when she nearly goes off with the atrocious St. John Rivers. (And while Bronte seems somewhat admiring of him at the end of the book, I found nothing in him whatsoever that appealed to me. That sort of religious fanatacism and creepy sexism is distasteful to me in the extreme). Rochester is interesting in that he's really not very appealing, and yet I could understand why Jane fell in love with him, and he with her. It's not often I've read a book which considered love as a meeting of minds, rather than something mostly based on physical attraction. And even so, before the first attempted wedding, Jane was "realistic" (or perhaps "pessimistic") about how long the love would last. No fairy tale happy endings here, but it really does turn out well in the end, nonetheless.

I also enjoyed Diane and Mary, and that whole episode of the book (which was new to me, as was not included in the film). I appreciated the very subtle sense of some divine hand guiding Jane at times - both in causing her to follow the light which led her to their doorstep, and also, later, the episode where she heard Rochester's voice (and she discovered later that he hears hers).

So, there is much to recommend in this book. It was slow-moving, but satisfying. I just found myself at times somewhat bogged down in the excessively descriptive prose, especially of the natural surroundings. I am glad to have read it, though.

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