Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Posted On 18 March 2016

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jane steeleI’ve literally just finished reading Jane Steele and I enjoyed it so much that I’m torn between wanting to hug it and shower it with love or burst into tears because it came to an end so swiftly.  I loved this story.  It was so unexpected and so wonderfully written.  It gave me laugh out loud moments, thrills and intrigue and frankly transported me back to my teenage years when I first discovered Jane Eyre.  In short, it’s books like this that made me start reading in the first place.  In case I’ve left any doubt on the subject, this book was fantastic!

Jane Steele shares a number of experiences similar to those suffered by Jane Eye.  Cruel relatives, a harsh school life and a future as a governess to name the most obvious.  However, the similarities end there.  Jane Steele is a totally different character and, I feel, a quite appropriately named one too.  I would first of all say that this is not a retelling of Jane Eyre so if that’s what you’re expecting I want to put the record straight.  This is a story that stands firmly on it’s own two feet whilst at the same time paying homage to the classic story.

Ms Steele, who quite unashamedly states ‘Reader, I murdered him’ on the front of the book takes a different turn in life.  In an era when women have no real power or standing Jane Steele takes the bit firmly between her teeth and refuses to be defined or restricted by her petticoats.  Following an early incident Jane believes her character to be ‘set’ in stone and the realisation of that does, to a degree, give her a certain freedom in the way she behaves.  Believing herself beyond redemption she has little else to lose after all.  She’s a great character to read.  Her story is articulate and flows so easily that I found myself completely transported and before I realised I’d read practically half the book in one sitting.

The other characters who share the book with Jane are all engaging.  We have Mr Thornfield, heir and master of Highgate and his strange and yet frankly wonderful household, Sardar Singh, a rather unconventional butler and Sahjara who is currently in the care of Mr Thornfield.  Detective Sam Quillfeather, is the policeman trying to connect all the dots surrounding the mysterious murders that have been accruing on his watch.

The story revolves around Jane’s potentially thwarted inheritance and the mystery surrounding her family.  On top of that we have an alternative murder mystery that comes into the story once Jane returns to her old family home.  In between time we have the years in between spent in Lowan Bridge – the harsh boarding school run by the tyrannical Mr Munt and then a period of time when Jane has to survive, using her wits, on the streets of London.

I have a number of books that are firm favourites and amongst my classic reads Jane Eyre takes a top seat.  I love the brooding gothic feel, the secrets (quite literally hidden in the attic) and the tragic Jane whose life seems to be riddled with misery. Jane Steele, whilst not a retelling positively gave me the goosebumps with it’s little snatches of similarity.

I have absolutely no criticisms of this book.  None.  I’ve searched the attics and the cellars and turned up empty handed.  I loved it.  It’s a deliciously ridiculous, well written and witty story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and delivers a fast paced slice of entertainment.

A thoroughly compelling read that I fear I cannot do justice to in this review.  I think, if you love the classics, Du Maurier, Conan Doyle or the beautiful writing of authors such as Donna Tartt then I think you would really enjoy this book.  I shall definitely be checking out more of Lyndsay Faye’s work and I would certainly read more adventures from Jane Steele – I’m looking at you Ms Faye with a hopeful expression!

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy.  I’m so pleased to have read Jane’s story.  The above is my own opinion.