Sometimes you just really want to pick up a dark retelling, especially around Halloween. For me, I found the perfect book in Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. It embodied the grimness of the original while also putting a fresh spin on the tale.
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?
I enjoyed Faye’s take on the original story of Jane Eyre. I thought it was an interesting idea to make the main character actually the original book throughout the story and compare herself to the classic heroine. You really got to see the contrast between the two characters that way. I also appreciated the fact that Faye kept her writing style to match that of the nineteenth century. It made it extremely easy to pull you into the time period and make you feel as if the story was published in 1850, rather than 2016.
Our new Jane definitely resembled the original, in that she was extremely independent and resourceful. She continued to push forward even when was afraid and never backed away from a challenge. I loved following along with her as she experienced all of the ups and downs throughout her childhood. I found myself wanting to be just as brave and stubborn as she is! (Well…. I may already be as stubborn as her. Ha!) Charles was also another interesting character. I loved his personality, always ready with a witty or snarky comment. His devotion to his household was really nice to see. But I’d have to say that my favorite character was Sardar. He had such a calming presence in the story and I always felt that everything would turn out okay as long as he was around. I also loved his little philosophical sayings that he would sprinkle throughout conversations.
I think the biggest issue with this book was that the pacing was a bit off. I found myself more heavily engrossed in the first half of the novel than I was in the second half. I felt that the boarding school section had so much more of an impact than Jane’s time at Highgate House. You could really feel the dread and tension building during her time there, which to me, made the mystery of Highgate House leave something to be desired. I just didn’t see it to be as suspenseful or interesting after everything that occurred at the school. I was more interested in the characters than I was in the mystery. It just seemed a bit anticlimactic in comparison to her time at the boarding school.
Overall this was a good retelling of the original Jane Eyre. The story was interesting, but I think the characters are really what make this book shine. If you are a big Jane Eyre fan and love retellings, then I definitely recommend this book to you! But I will say that even if you haven’t read the original, it’s not required in order to pick this one up and enjoy it! 🙂
Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars
Have you read this book before? If so, what did you think of it? Did you enjoy Jane’s time at boarding school or Highgate House more? What do you think about this Jane versus the original character?