A classic of gothic fiction, victorian literature, and feminist writing, Jane Eyre is an extraordinary exploration of the strength of the female spirit. Written by Charlotte Brontë in 1847, Jane Eyre tells the story of the titular character, an orphan who must make a lifein a world set against her. Brought up by cruel relatives who send her to a soul-crushing boarding school, Jane has every reason to despair of ever achieving a good life; but the strength of her character is that she never gives up hope. She transcends her difficult childhood to become a teacher and eventually a governess, swearing that she will never treat a child as she was once treated.

At the center of Jane Eyre is the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester, the stern, taciturn master of Thornfield Hall and guardian of her young charge. This is not your traditional love story: both characters are physically unattractive (and say so to each other), and there is no immediate swooning into the others’ arms. Jane and Rochester build an astonishingly equal love through intelligence and compassion, not passion or domination. Despite his status as her employer, in many ways Jane has the upper hand in the relationship; her strength of character and internal dignity allow her to maintain a self even in the midst of a romance. This is why, when a dark betrayal is revealed, Jane does not lose herself along with her lover; she can continue to build her own life, even as she longs to be in his company.

Jane Eyre is a love story, yes, one of the greatest ever written—but that is not the most important aspect of the narrative. At the core of this book is the tale of a young woman progressing from dismal circumstances to self understanding and sufficiency. Jane Eyre is a book far ahead of its time, and one that holds up to infinite re-readings.