I've been enjoying it far more than I expected, mainly because Jane herself is a far more engaging character than I had anticipated. I tend to loose patience with characters who get lost in their emotions and do obviously stupid things, and for some reason that what I'd expected Jane to be. (Falling in love with a guy who keeps a mad wife in the attic doesn't exactly seem like the wisest thing one can do.) Nor do I have much tolerance for the over-innocent damsel who is buffeted about by an increasingly improbably series of events, which seemed like the other likely explanation for the vague outlines of the plot I was aware of. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised at finding Jane to be a genuinely strong character, despite being (in Bronte's language) "of a passionate character". Despite her "sensibility", Jane is most definitely no Marianne Dashwood. I'd expected to be reading the book as something of an outsider, and Jane is indeed 100% girl, but she's reasonable and rigorously self possessed enough to appeal to my masculine sensibilities, even while seeming genuinely (though appealingly) foreign to them in her emotions.
I've also been struck, given my historical and economic interests, with the portrayal of mid-19th century England you get from Jane's point of view. As a tenuous member of the "respectable" class, Jane is well suited to appreciate the fragility of lower upper middle class existence. When she finds herself in Whitcross, without friends, money or references, she's changed instantly from the educated person Mrs. Fairfax was glad she would have to talk to rather than "the servants" into someone unlucky even among beggars:
Reader, it is not pleasant to dwell on these details. Some say there is enjoyment in looking back to painful experience past; but at this day I can scarcely bear to review the times to which I allude: the moral degradation, blent with the physical suffering, form too distressing a recollection ever to be willingly dwelt on. I blamed none of those who repulsed me. I felt it was what was to be expected, and what could not be helped: an ordinary beggar is frequently an object of suspicion; a well-dressed beggar inevitably so. To be sure, what I begged was employment; but whose business was it to provide me with employment? Not, certainly, that of persons who saw me then for the first time, and who knew nothing about my character. And as to the woman who would not take my handkerchief in exchange for her bread, why, she was right, if the offer appeared to her sinister or the exchange unprofitable. Let me condense now. I am sick of the subject.This is perhaps the quintessential middle class terror: I am someone, yet one misstep and I could be no one.