I very much enjoyed this book. I am a huge fan of Jane Austen, and this is easily as good as most of her books (and better than a couple of them).
I was pleasantly surprised by the conversational tone of the writing. While it's a little more formal than modern novels, it's very easy to read. I'm not normally a fan of first person narrative, but this is friendly and chatty and just a pleasure to read.
The main character is compelling. Given the period, she's really quite a strong heroine. There are a few points that date her, but not as many as you might expect. She seems like somebody I'd enjoy spending time with.
The plot is well-developed, interesting and full of twists and turns. At this point, I should confess that I had seen a film version, so I knew what would happen. That would have helped pull me through any slow bits - but at no point was I ever bored. The mini-bio of Charlotte Bronte inside the front cover of the edition I read gave particular credibility to her description of the rather awful school. And, as someone who read rather a lot of romance novels as a teen, it was interesting to read a book that has clearly served as an inspiration to many writers in that genre.
Yes, the book is long. But, in my opinion, it's well worth it. Highly recommend to anyone who likes romance novels and/or period literature.