Review: Jane Steele

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Published by Headline Review on the 22nd March 2016
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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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?

This book is easily one of the most over-hyped books I’ve read all year. After being promised that it was one of the best retellings of Jane Eyre ever published, I was let down a few pages in when Jane Steele started referencing Jane Eyre and I realised that this was actually just published fan fiction – you know, when the authors begin inserting themselves in their stories? It was a bit like that.

Regardless, it was a compelling read. Jane Steele has such a present voice, and is driven by her desire for vengeance. Despite it being increasingly clear that Jane is a bit cray-cray, Faye somehow manages to convince the reader that the crimes that Jane commits are completely warranted and her victims deserved to die. Attempted rapists, husbands who abuse their wives, religious hypocrites – the world that Jane lives in is filled with horrible people, and it is possible to understand her motivations.

The second third of the book where Jane is at boarding school and later moves to London is probably the high point of the book. Honestly, it was filled with such misery and mistreatment that it made me angry while reading, and I always appreciate a book that can elicit that kind of emotional response in me. There were also some great female friendships (hurrah for females supporting one another), and Jane ran around behaving kind of like I expected Celaena Sardothien to behave (should the infamous assassin ever actually kill anyone, ever).

Once Jane returned to her childhood home and settled into life with Mr Thornfield, the pacing of the novel slowed right down and I found my attention wandering while reading. The romance was okay – it wasn’t instalove, Jane and Mr Thornfield accepted each other warts and all, and they became better people because of the other’s influence – but I picked up the book because I was intrigued by the “Jane Eyre if Jane was a serial killer” hook, so it didn’t really do anything for me. Also, Thornfield didn’t have half as much personality as Rochester, so the story really lagged.

The ending was so much weaker than the beginning, so it’s hard for me to form a coherent opinion on it. I couldn’t even tell you if I would recommend it to a friend – is it possible to recommend the first half?


Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.

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