Day 870: Jane Steele

Cover for Jane SteeleBest Book of the Week!
Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Timothy Wilde trilogy (I am one) have undoubtedly been looking forward to Jane Steele, which she describes as a riff on Jane Eyre. In this novel, which Faye dedicates to “Miss Eyre and Mr. Nickleby,” Jane Steele describes her life as one very similar to Jane Eyre’s, only with an important difference—Jane Steele is a serial killer.

At the beginning of the novel, Jane is nine or ten years old, living in a cottage with her mother on the grounds of Highgate House. Although her mother has told her Highgate House belongs to her, it is occupied by her Aunt Patience Barbary and her cousin Edwin. Mrs. Barbary hates Jane and her mother, and after her mother’s death from an overdose of some opiate, Mrs. Barbary wastes no time in preparing to ship Jane off to Lowan Bridge School, run by Mr. Vesalius Munt. But before that can happen, Edwin tries to rape Jane, who pushes him off a cliff to his death. Terrified by the perspicacious Constable Quillfeather, Jane goes meekly to school.

It is difficult to know how much to reveal in this review, but suffice it to say that almost every action in Jane Eyre is echoed in some way in Jane Steele, but always with a twist. Mr. Munt is, if anything, a worse sadist and hypocrite than the headmaster of Lowood School. Jane Steele has a dear friend in the school, Rebecca Clarke, who comes close to dying, but when Mr. Munt offers Jane a choice between further starving Clarke or agreeing to be sent to an asylum, Jane instead chooses to stab him with a letter opener. Jane being sixteen by then, she and Clarke run off to London.

link to NetgalleyEventually, Jane meets her Mr. Rochester when she forges credentials as a governess to go work at Highgate House. There she hopes to search for proof of her mother’s claim that the house belongs to her. She finds herself in an unusual environment. The house belongs to Mr. Charles Thornfield, a nephew of Patience Barbary. Her charge is a little Sikh girl named Sahjara, and the entire household is Sikh. This household has its own secrets, to do with the betrayal of the Khaba, the Sikh military, by its own leaders.

This novel is a romping good read, full of adventure. It features a missing treasure, secret identities, several oily villains, and the resurrection of the heroine’s self-esteem. Yes, Jane kills five men. Do we still like her? Absolutely. I think you’re going to love this book.

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17 thoughts on “Day 870: Jane Steele

  1. Helen March 22, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    I have a copy of this book which I’m hoping to start in the next few days. I loved the Timothy Wilde trilogy so I’ve been looking forward to reading this one and I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it!

  2. Naomi March 22, 2016 / 3:10 pm

    Oh, yay, I’m glad you liked it! What time period is it set in?

    • whatmeread March 22, 2016 / 3:10 pm

      I think it’s supposed to be the same period as Jane Eyre, which would make it 19th century.

    • whatmeread March 22, 2016 / 3:13 pm

      Another good one is coming up on Thursday, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. I just loved her first book.

  3. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review March 22, 2016 / 6:17 pm

    I have seen several rave reviews for this now, so I think I’m going to have to check it out. I would never have thought I could like a Jane who was a serial killer, but you say I will — how intriguing is that?

    • whatmeread March 23, 2016 / 7:23 am

      Well, I was hesitant whether to say this. She does kill several people, but there’s always a reason, and you don’t have the sense that she’s doing it for pleasure. So, I’m not sure if that makes her a real serial killer. The author called her that.

      • Lory @ Emerald City Book Review March 23, 2016 / 8:42 am

        Seems to be a misnomer then — I would think of a serial killer as doing it on purpose and probably for pleasure. I’m glad to know this Jane is not doing that at least.

      • whatmeread March 23, 2016 / 8:43 am

        I think she’s using the term for effect.

  4. Carolyn O March 22, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    Bood gods, deliver this unto me.

      • Carolyn O March 23, 2016 / 7:38 am

        One can only hope I have that kind of power.

      • Carolyn O March 23, 2016 / 7:39 am

        And of course I meant “book.”

      • whatmeread March 23, 2016 / 7:41 am

        I knew that! I hate it that after you post comments on other people’s blogs, you can’t edit them to get rid of your boo-boos.

  5. Laura's Reviews March 25, 2016 / 2:35 pm

    Good review. I’m still torn on this book. I love Jane Eyre, but I’m not sure I want to see her as a serial killer.

    • whatmeread March 28, 2016 / 7:27 am

      Well, she isn’t supposed to be Jane Eyre, just a woman with a similar life. And she’s not really a serial killer, by the strict definition of the term. Does that help?

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