Happy Wednesday, Booknerds!
Because things are slowing down in the unpacking department I got to sit down with Jane Steele.
It was AMAZING and I'm so excited to share the review with you.
Title: Jane Steele
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Genre: Adult Historical (Jane Eyre Retelling)
Publication: March 22, 2016
"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?
A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.
I had a very strong feeling that I was going to enjoy this book from the get go. A gritty retelling of Jane Eyre, where Jane is a murderess? I was intrigued by the prospect, because how many times did readers of "Jane Eyre" believe "These characters deserve so much misery" after they'd abused and tormented Jane so severely?
I'm not the type of person who cries "Death! Death! Death!" to any crappy person, because we've all been crappy people, haven't we? At some point. Yet I had a bit of a morbid curiosity concerning how the author was going to handle Jane as an antihero. In my very humble opinion: It was done perfectly.
Jane Steele ended up NOT being so much a retelling of Jane Eyre as it was a comparative. Our main character LOVES Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" and draws many lines from the story to her own life, though they are by no means identical. Unfortunate family circumstances, mean relatives, an absurdly abusive girls school, a governess position, and a loss and regaining of love. Those are the general concepts that the book follows, but the execution is unique and dark, continually looking the reader right in the eye and asking "What would you have done? How would you have survived this?"
Instead of this blood-thirsty murderess, we have a young woman trapped by circumstances, navigating her world in the only way she learned how. Death does not quite follow her around, and the author makes sure you feel Jane's turmoil over ever murder she commits (even if it's only a bare little twinge). Jane does not become this unfeeling, sociopathic monster saved only, and surprisingly, by love at the very end. She's a passionate, feeling, intelligent, loving woman fighting tooth and nail for some form of comfort and safety in her life (neither of which she fully believes she should have), driven not only by her desire to survive but also by love for her friends. Jane Steele was an incredible character full of complexities, at once believing that she was deserving of better and then deserving of nothing at all.
There is no "black and white" with this story. Nothing is handed to the reader on a silver platter. The line between good and evil is considerably blurred. Love and life are hard won and the "Happily Ever After" comes only on the heels of a wave of hurt.
I devoured this story and was absolutely in love with Jane, who learns that everyone has a dark side and in the end it only really matters if you let that darkness consume you.
Five stars. Ten stars. A HUNDRED STARS. This one will definitely end up on my Best Books of 2016 list.
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Auggie is the 29 year old whirlwind owner of Auggie-Talk. A bibliobibuli by nature and a (potentially obsessive) lover of Diana Wynne Jones and Neil Gaiman. Not so secrety secret: She's been known to consume too much caffeine leading to hyperactive rants about her heinous lack of shelving and the high likelihood that Hermione Granger is her spirit animal.