Author: Lyndsay Faye
Genre: Gothic, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Penguin Random House
First Line: "Of all my many murders, committed for love and for better reasons, the first was the most important."
Book Description from GoodReads: 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.
My Rating: 3/5
My Review: This book has been on my radar for awhile and has gotten quite a bit of buzz on the book review/library scene. I was drawn to it for its' Gothic vibe and the connection to the classic book, Jane Eyre. The reference to the classic was a rather big undertaking and I thought the author would have big shoes to fill if the mere mention of Jane Eyre was used in the same sentence as this book's description. While Jane Steele admits to reading Jane Eyre (I cannot make the same claim) and that it inspired her, this is not a retelling of the original.
This book had two very distinct parts for me. The first third of the book I loved. The writing was unique and very smart, it was funny in parts and Jane, though an admitted murderer, was a character I could get behind. There aren't many multiple murderers that I've found myself rooting for but Jane Steele definitely fit the bill and I was surprised when I found myself justifying her murders. Jane is strong, resilient and has a strong sense of loyalty to those close to her even though she's suffered throughout her life. Her voice was refreshing, candid and quite humorous.
Then Jane becomes a governess for Mr Thornfield's ward and the story takes a rather sharp turn. The momentum pretty much halts as the book focuses less on Jane and more on a mystery surrounding lost items in the Sikh war and her quiet, sedate life as a governess. Even so, there were still certain characters that I quite liked in this part of the book, namely Sardar Singh, young Sahjara (and to a lesser point Mr Thornfield). Unfortunately at this point in the book my interest waned almost to the point of me giving up on it.
But I persevered and finished the book. I can honestly tell you that I didn't enjoy the last two-thirds of the book. The writing itself wasn't as smart, Jane didn't feel like the same person and I didn't care for the mystery which took over that part of the book leaving Jane to the shadows. I'd give the first part of this book a solid 4 stars but the ending I'm giving a generous 2 stars for an overall rating of 3 stars.