First published in 2016
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
The Short Of It:
"Reader, I murdered him," instead of "Reader, I married him." That about sums it up.
The Long Of It:
I loved "Jane Eyre" when I read it in high school, but I may just love this re-telling even more. I mean, Jane Eyre, vigilante serial killer? Lovely prose? What's not to like?
Like her counterpart, Jane Steele is an unfortunate orphan who attends a terrible school, then becomes a governess and falls in love with her emotionally tormented employer. But Jane Steele's temperament is not quite like her idol Jane Eyre's (the main character of her favorite novel); it's decidedly more modern in many ways.
Jane Steele is incredibly intelligent, cunning, devious and inventive, and she possesses a fighter's spirit. She's a master liar. She commits her first murder at age 9. She's also fiercely loyal and kind and finds solace in the company of horses. Faye has given us an extremely dynamic, lovable but flawed main character.
Of herself and Charles Thornfield (her Mr. Rochester, a.k.a. the haunted, agonized master of the house), Jane Steele says, "...even if we were both poorly stitched together creatures made of scar tissue and regrets, I wanted only to find a way to live in his world more fully."
I appreciated the myriad ways Faye worked the original "Jane Eyre" into her new story (though I definitely don't think you'd have to know "Jane Eyre" to enjoy "Jane Steele") and I loved that she kept somewhat true to the writing style of the 19th century -- and I was enthralled by her beautiful command of the English language.
I also enjoyed the completely unexpected -- and edifying -- element of Sikh culture in the novel. Charles Thornfield, the man who hires Jane as a governess for his young charge, and his household staff hail from the Punjab region of India. I was only vaguely aware of the terrible wars in the 1800s between the Sikhs and the British (the East India Company) and I enjoyed learning about an interesting culture I knew next to nothing about.
"Jane Steele" was a completely fun and engaging read, but it also had its share of serious, poignant moments. It was a tale of overcoming all odds, a romance, and even a mystery, and it featured a totally badass heroine. I commend Lyndsay Faye for this awesome re-telling of a classic romance that never fails to pay homage to its inspiration, Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre."
I'll leave you with another gorgeous quote from the book that exemplifies both Jane Steele's spirited narration and Lyndsay Faye's beautiful writing: "If you expected to find yourself in a Gothic snowscape, reader, ears tickling with spectral whispers as the plucky protagonist breaks into a cottage haunted by the shades of her past, regrettably you are mistaken. The door was already unlocked."