Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre.
Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked – but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.
A fugitive navigating London’s underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate’s true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household’s strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him – body, soul and secrets – and what if he discovers her murderous past?
It was the boarding school that taught me to act as a wolf in girl’s clothing should: skulking, a greyer shadow within a grey landscape. It was London which formed me into a pale, wide-eyed creature with an errant laugh, a lust for life and for dirty vocabulary, and a knife in her pocket.
I hereby commence my account with the unembellished truth:
Reader, I murdered him.
This is a very, very loose retelling of Jane Eyre in which Jane is a serial killer. And reader, it was awesome! If you’re very, very canon about your Jane Eyre, stay far away. If you want to be entertained, if you have a secret (or not so secret *preens*) dark and twisted side, come and dive right in.
This is not a book for middle schoolers. It is seriously dark, with sexual violence and child abuse, some of it happening to Jane as a very young child.
On the last occasion we had shared a drive in the trap, the candied aroma of clover in our noses, Edwin had parted his trouser front and shown me the flesh resting like a grubworm within the cotton, asking whether I knew what it was used for
Jane is an unwanted orphan in her relatives’ home. That is nearly where the similarity ends. Despised and unwelcome, Jane is destined for a miserable future, foisted onto her cruel aunt…but she us unlike the fictional Jane Eyre (a heroine upon our own intrepid Jane often compares herself).
My aunt Patience thought girls ought to be decorative. Indeed, Jane Eyre tucks herself away in a curtained alcove at the beginning of her saga, and thus at least attempts docility.
I was not a fictional orphan but a real one.
Like Jane, she attends a boarding school, one even more horrid than the original. And again, she escaped, the only way she knows how.
Reader, would you prefer me to have felt remorse in the aftermath of my second slaughter?
Though the brutality of the act sent fearsome tremors through my small frame for days and weeks afterwards, never have I regretted ending the life of my headmaster.
Jane kills, yes, but her tale is presented in a way that her acts are almost…justified. I don’t advocate victim blaming and vigilantism, but I was sympathetic to Jane and what she did. I know this sounds strange, given that we’re talking about a serial killer, but Jane is a good person. She is capable of love, she kills to protect the ones she love.
This book may feel one-dimensional because of all the deaths and the way Jane kills, but it’s not. There are complex relationships in this book, particularly among the girls at the boarding school. They are sisters, bound together by misery, although loyalty is not always ensured.
This book warranted a 3 and not a 4 because the story dragged after Jane started working for Mr. Thornfield as his ward’s governess. The book went from a wicked adventure of survival to boring in no time flat. Thornfield didn’t hold as much interest for me. I mean, Rochester himself wasn’t much to sniff at, but Thornfield was rather dull. First half = 4 stars, 2nd half = 2.