Jane Steele, Lyndsay Faye
Published March 22nd 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Kindle Edition, 427 pages
Source: Penguin First to Read
“Reader, I murdered him.”
A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.
Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?
“Reader, I murdered him.”
Who doesn’t want to read this book based on that line? So let me tell you, Reader, it was amazing. I was a bit unsure at first as I read, wondering just how beloved Jane Eyre could be turned into a murderess. Then Jane Steele herself holds Eyre up as a model of nearly all goodness and I realized how very different these characters would be. Jane Steele is orphaned and is sent by her aunt to away to school, these facts and that she later becomes a governess are pretty much where her similarities to Jane Eyre end. Jane Steele is funny! She’s smart. She’s quick on her feet. Most importantly she realizes violence is necessary to save herself at times.
As excited as I was to read this book I did not think I would get too attached to our murderess but I really did. I was expecting a cold-hearted sociopath. What Faye delivers is a child who is lost without her mother, preyed on by a creepy cousin and then delivered into a school that sounds like hell. No wonder she turns to murder! Really when you consider what she’s been through she is very brave! Jane is also loyal and remarkably honest. She grows into a remarkably thoughtful young woman, despite her views of herself.
I’ve seen some complaints in reviews about the second half of the book where Jane returns to Highgate House being slow. I thought this half was nearly faster than the beginning and the gothic feel much lighter. I loved the addition of the Sikh party at Highgate House and how comfortably teaching Jane about their religion and history in India flowed with the story. The romance was sweet and completely appropriate for the book. I was nervous for Jane while she wrestled with the question of how to meld her past and her hopes with Mr. Thornfield (and I loved Thornfield!). In the end I was just delighted and completely entertained.
Now that I’ve read my second successful Jane Eyre related book (Re Jane was another great book!) I am definitely going to have to go back to the classic.
Thank you GP Putnam and Penguin First to Read for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!