Jane Eyre - Josephine Bailey, Charlotte Brontë "I need not sell my soul to buy bliss"

Jane Eyre is an orphan, raised by her aunt, until one day, she is sent to a horrible school. Eventually, she leaves this school and is employed by the mysterious Mr. Rochester, to care for his ward, Adele. Jane finds herself growing more fond of the man...and more curious about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his home.

I have just finished listening to this audiobook, and I am still trying to pick my jaw up from the floor. WOW, just WOW. This was a positively amazing experience, a thrill and a joy, a pleasure from beginning to end. I haven't had this enjoyable a time listening to a historical/classic/romance novel since...well, "Gone with the Wind"! From characters to plot to story to setting, everything was a joy to unfold, and while I knew somewhat how the story would go, I was still thrown for loops and wondered if Jane would ever get her happily ever after.

From the beginning, I knew Jane was interesting and different. She may have been plain, but she was relatively well behaved, curious, and intelligent. Throughout the entire book, Jane grows and develops as a person. She pushes for her own destiny and does not let others tell her what to do--and in her day and age, that is remarkable. She puts up with her cousins until self-respect tells her not to. She begs to be put into school away from her relatives. She deals with the hardships of school, knowing things would be worse in her adoptive home. She is studious, becoming a teacher, and when she learns she can make more money being a governess, she leaves her job. While working for Mr. Rochester, she never forgets her pupil, she remains cordial and appropriate in front of Mr. Rochester, and when she is called back to her aunt's side, she gives the dying woman forgiveness. When Jane learns of Mr. Rochester's secret, she doesn't succumb to what she sees as sin, but leaves even though it could mean starvation and hard work. When Rev. Rivers tries to coerce her into going with him to India, she refuses to accept his temrs and presents her own. Time and again, Jane proves to be independent, smart, and moral--something many a modern protagonist that supposedly is these things could take a lesson in.

Our secondary characters are painted with equal care and detail. Jane's aunt and cousins are horrible, and they grow up to be horrible people (well, sort of). I grieved when Helen died; I fell in love with Mr. Rochester alongside Jane; I was devastated at his secret; I loved being with Mary and Diana; I bristled at Rev. Rivers' cold attitude. All in all, the cast is well-crafted and enjoyable.

I knew the big secret of the story before hand, but I didn't know how or if Jane ever got to be with her beloved Mr. Rochester. I was kept on the edge of my seat the entire time, wondering how Bronte would pull it off. I was shocked at what happened to Mr. Rochester's manor AND Mr. Rochester. Most authors nowadays wouldn't DARE damage their major characters so permanently and so obviously!

The descriptions are long and sometimes laborious, though it paints Jane's surroundings beautifully. I also found myself getting bored in the last third (where Jane hangs out with Diana and Mary) and found some of the circumstances of that part to be a bit hokey (no spoilers!). Also, apologies in advance, but the narrator was particularly bland and almost sounded like those automated computer voices you get when calling your bank or Fedex or some other big business. Her voice was clear and precise, but had almost no emotion and was very dry. A few hours of listening to that voice drained me.

This book is excellent, much better, in my opinion, than Charlotte's sister's book, "Wuthering Heights", which seemed more of a study on how not to fall in love . This is a real, true romance story with real, true obstacles populated with real, true characters. I definitely enjoyed it and recommend it highly.