I had heard wonderful things about the Charlotte Brontë inspired Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye and I thought it sounded just my cup-of-tea. The lovely Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog thought I would love it too so kindly sent me her copy!
Jane Steele, like the heroine of her favourite novel Jane Eyre, is orphaned at a young age, suffers at the hands of her spoilt cousin, her cold aunt and her vindictive schoolmaster, watches young friends die at school and finally becomes a governess in an isolated house with a capricious master and a big secret. However, this is where the similarities end because Steele is a very different creature to Eyre. Whilst Eyre wrote ‘Reader I married him’ – Steele writes ‘Reader I murdered him’!
While I thought Jane Eyre was a beautifully written gothic tale, I really struggled with the self-deprecating character of Jane herself. So I was intrigued to find out how, the author of this book, Lyndsay Faye’s twist on Jane’s character would play out. I am happy to say I loved her twist on this classic character. Steele, while not beautiful, is a striking and intelligent woman who has never stood for any nonsense; even as a child. Whilst the cruel upbringing and many mistreatments turned Eyre to faith instead the same experience sees Steele become stronger, more cunning and steely. Both were accused of being wicked but Steele knows that in her case, this is true.
When I first picked this book up, I made a slow start as I found the language rather convoluted and disjointed which hindered me getting into the flow of the story – the book also has a slow, steady pace to it so it takes a while to get anywhere. However, once Steele returned to Highgate House I found myself completely swept away! I was fascinated with this isolated, cold house’s transformation with colourful, exotic furnishings; the spicy, rich food; deadly secrets and mysterious goings-on in the basement; and the new, unusual inhabitants, including: Mr Thornfield, his ward Sahjara, the butler Mr Singh and other Sikh servants. All previous problems with style were forgiven and forgotten.
Overall, I found Jane Steele to be a refreshing and cool twist on Jane Eyre with a beautifully described setting; an interesting cast of characters and a gripping mystery. Great read.
Have you read this? How did you think it compared to Jane Eyre?
10 Books of Summer – 8/10