Book Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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“I liked hearing her earnest chatter, I liked the bizarre dishes served alongside our tea–buttered sandwiches, yes, but also a curry-scented bread which drove memories of Aunt Patience’s arrogant tiered refreshments straight from my mind.”

For a Jane Steele inspired curry recipe, click here.

4/5 stars

The Story:

A loose re-telling of Jane Eyre, the novel follows murderess orphan Jane Steele from boarding school student to penny dreadful author to unorthodox, foul-mouthed governess. Faye masterfully ties in strings of Jane Eyre in addition to other Victorian influences such as the Gothic and the Oriental, painting a vivid and colorful story.

Minor spoilers begin here. 

How does it stand against other re-tellings? 

I’ve read several “re-tellings” of classics which I will not name as I didn’t enjoy any of them. Each re-telling had its merits and moments, but typically left me with a bad taste in my mouth at the travesty of pulling a great piece of literature through the mud of YA drama. I don’t know that I would even call Jane Steele a re-telling as much as inspired and influenced by Jane Eyre. I’ve read Jane Eyre and am familiar with the story, but I still could not anticipate the story line of Jane Steele and had several pleasant surprises. I even feel that Faye improved certain aspects of Jane Eyre, especially through the characters of Mr. Rochester and his young ward.

Mr. Rochester is often cruel and manipulative. As romantic as I found Jane Eyre when I was sixteen and first read it, Jane and Rochester’s dysfunctional relationship makes me more uncomfortable now. The Mr. Rochester figure from Jane Steele has an “edge” of darkness with his dark humor and questionable past in addition to his “eccentric” relationships with his ward and household. However, he was overall warm, affectionate, and aware of his household.

Mr. Rochester’s ward was also given more personality. Largely absent and present to provide a purpose for Jane to be in Rochester’s household, Jane and Mr. Thornfield’s ward are attached to one another, sharing interests and time together. Mr. Thornfield also interacts with her affectionately as opposed the the disregard Mr. Rochester shows his ward in the original novel.

Quotes: 

Lastly, Faye is a lovely writer. One major problem with the re-tellings I’ve read is I’ve felt they rely on the story that’s already been masterfully created for them and the novel falls stale. Faye brought a fresh voice of a Victorian novel with a modern shade. Some great quotes, as the following.

“We tell stories to strangers to ingratiate ourselves, stories to lovers to better adhere us skin to skin, stories in our heads to banish the demons. When we tell the truth, often we are callous; when we tell lies, often we are kind. Through it all, we tell stories, and we own an uncanny knack for the task.”

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