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Monday, April 25, 2016

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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Buy from: Amazon (UK) || Amazon (US) || Wordery
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Headline Review
ISBN-13: 978-1472217554

(Copy of book provided by publishers for review however, as always this hasn't impacted my review of this book)


Synopsis from Goodreads

Reader, I murdered him. 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?

Review - 4.5 Stars

The first few pages are very clever in introducing what this book is about and hooks you in . It is explained to the reader that this book is Jane Steele's autobiography (written by Jane herself) and it is quickly clear that Jane is a going to plain speaking and truthful in her account of her life. It is here where she also draws some of the parallels between her own story with that of Jane Eyre. This introduction ends with 'Reader, I murdered him' the line which drew me to read this book. The fact that we are told that Jane is going to kill makes the book all the more suspenseful, as you wait for it happen. However, after a while as you get know Jane more you can begin to see a pattern to her kills and can see them coming.
Jane's childhood is a harrowing one, she spends her early years living with a grief-stricken mother in almost complete isolation. Then the second part of her childhood she spend in a discipline-heavy school.  I found this section of the book helps the reader to get to know this strange child and also get use to the writing style. The cliff hanger ends to quite a few of the chapters in this section defiantly helped to keep me reading. The second section is set in London and illustrates the difficulties for woman in a time when they had no rights. I have to say that this book gets better and better- but all of it was vital in developing this story.  
"Lying has always come as easy for me as breathing" - Page 19
Jane's first murder wasn't as blood thirsty as I thought it was going to be - I know that makes me sound strange but - because of the strong feels which she is experiencing at that point I was expecting it be more dramatic (something I can't say is missing from some of her later murders). Jane is intelligent and a quick-thinker - even at a young age - this along with her good acting skills saves her neck so many times throughout this book. While of course murder is wrong, the way in which the accounts of each murder is told, I can understand why Jane turns into a murderess, with none of her victims being innocents.  
"There have been multiple moments which cause me to suspect, your true self a giant deliberately casting a small shadow." - Page 196
Once Jane becomes a governess I feel as though the book does a bit of shift. It is less about Jane trying to survive in a world where all the odds are stacked against her and more about her getting to know the people at Highgate House and considering who she wants to be. I enjoyed that Jane's new employers were of foreign origins and that this bought in an entirely new culture.
Mr Thornfield has his own peculiarities, some of which he openly displays (he has a great way of refurbishing a billiard room) and others which I enjoyed reading about, as Jane snooped and spies to find them out. I can't talk about Mr Thronfield without mentioning the wonderfully played out sexual tension between him and out Jane. I also enjoyed the batter and obviously love between Mr Thornfield and his ward, Sahjara as well as their servants. Sahjara is such a lovely girl with such a strong, warm, honest and open personality:

"Sahjara was demonstrative with everyone, adorably so, and did not mean anything, I told myself" - Page 168
The final part of this book turns into a bit more Sherlock Homes with mystery solving, hidden treasure, murders, thief's, and horse chases. It is a wonderful climax to this adventure and causes Jane to end up allying herself with the most unlikely people. This books ending is very befitting of the characters in this book and wrapped up this book wonderfully.   
 The style of writing was very cleaver, at the start it required a bit on concentration but as I got use to the style, it just became normal and easy to read and understand. Firstly, Lyndsay Faye has managed to replicate the older writing style of descriptive metaphors and similes while also making it understandable and enjoyable to read.
" My earlier metaphor had been wrong, I discovered. The splash of ink from the pen dropping onto the page looked nothing like a spray of blood at all." - Page 92

There are often sentences at the end of a chapter or paragraph which hint (like the first section which I talk about above) at something tragic or majorly important coming soon. But it is only ever a hint so that you have to keep reading to find out what the author is referring to.  As this book is written as Jane as the narrator, we are able to get a lot of insight into the way in which Jane thinks. For example, we get -fairly often - these sentence  where she will explain what she should have (but didn't) felt or done at a point in her life.

" I ought to have died, reader, but I did not." - Page 139
I think one of the best things about Jane is, not her quick thinking, her ability to muddle though, her strongwill or her bravery to stand up for what she thinks is right, (although these are some of her better qualities) but her dark humour and matter-of-fact tone in which her words are written in this novel.  

Summarising my Thoughts

I really enjoyed this dark retelling of Jane Eyre, the wicked main character was an entertaining narrator. It took me a while to get use to the style of writing but I had got into the swing of it, I enjoyed the story more and more as I read. This book mixes a survivor of the harrowing issues of the 19th Century England with survivors of the Punjabi battlefields. They both carry scars and secrets which they slowly begin to discover about one another, and it was great to read of the adventures that these discoveries create.