by Charlotte Bronte
first published in 1847
Jane Eyre was rendered an orphan following the death of her parents. She was left in the care of her uncle and his family and, upon his death, was horribly mistreated by her aunt and cousins. At the age of 10, her aunt sent her to live at a charity boarding school for orphans. There the mistreatment took on a new style in the form of poor living conditions. However, Jane made friends and found a mentor. Soon word got out about the conditions at the school and improvements were made. Jane continued to live there and eventually taught at the school for a couple of years.
When her mentor left to get married, Jane decided to expand her horizons. Unknown to anyone else, she placed an advertisement desiring the position of governess. One reply came and Jane accepted the position. She traveled to Thornfield, where she is to teach Adele, the french-born charge of the master of the house, Mr. Rochester. According to the caretaker of the house, Mr. Rochester is infrequently home.
During a chance meeting, Jane meets and helps Mr. Rochester after he has fallen from his horse, though she does not learn it is him until she returns home. She is intrigued by him, and his personality. He frequently calls her down to talk with him, even including her when he is entertaining guests. Jane learns he is intending to marry one of the young ladies in the party. She will leave her position as governess before Mrs. Rochester moves into Thornfield. This is tragic for Jane, as she has fallen in love with her master!
Jane is called away because of the impending death of her aunt. She is told by the aunt that her mother's uncle had written searching for her, wanting to adopt her and leave his estate to Jane upon his death. The aunt wrote back to the uncle that Jane had died. Jane returns to Thornfield after her aunt's death, expecting not to stay long due to the impending wedding. However, in a strange twist of events, Jane learns that Mr. Rochester wishes to marry her, and not Miss Ingram.
Plans move forward for the wedding, but the happiness is interrupted during the ceremony. Jane learns that Mr. Rochester is already - and still - married! The crazy laughs Jane has heard, the attempt on the life of Mr. Rochester (and on Mr. Mason during his visit), and the strange "nightmare" Jane had before the wedding - they are all the result of Mr. Rochester's insane wife, who is kept hidden at Thornfield.
Upon learning this news, Jane flees Thornfield with no money and no way to take care of herself. She is desolate, starving, and on the verge of death when she is taken in by St. John Rivers, and his sisters Diana and Mary. They nurse her back to health and St. John, a pastor, gives her the job of instructor at a school for the area's poorest girls. Jane delights in her time with the Rivers sisters, and she even comes to enjoy teaching at the school.
In yet another twist, Jane discovers through St. John that they are indeed cousins. Her uncle, who had desired to adopt her and leave his estate to her has died, and did leave the estate to Jane alone. He gave a little to St. John, Diana, and Mary due to a dispute he had had with their father long ago. Jane is thrilled at the prospect of having a real family! She intends to divide the estate among the four of them. St. John, who has felt the call to missions work in India, asks Jane to go with him - as his wife. She agrees to go - as his sister - but he refuses. She struggles with this decision, and as she struggles, she hears a voice call her name - Edward's voice (Mr. Rochester).
Jane decides she must go to find out what happened to Mr. Rochester. Her letters have gone unanswered. She arrives at Thornfield to find it burned to the ground. She learns that Mr. Rochester's wife had set the place on fire, then committed suicide. Mr. Rochester, in an attempt to get everyone out of the house safely, including his wife, was seriously hurt - losing a hand, one eye, and the sight in his remaining eye. He is living at Ferndean.
Jane went to Mr. Rochester at Ferndean and at first he did not believe it was her. He told her he had called out for her, the very same night she heard his voice calling her name. Edward repented of his life's misdeeds, and he and Jane married quickly in a quiet ceremony. He regains the sight in his eye, and they have a son together, and are happy!
(OK, so that was sort of a long summary -and I'm not sure I got the details correct! LOL - but what can I say! I LOVED this book!! I'll post my thoughts in the coming days!)