Recently, I read a blog post about whether adults should finish a book when they aren’t enjoying it. The blogger came down on the side of closing the book and moving on, but there were plenty of comments from those who are unable to walk away from a book unfinished.
In my own experience, I have found that a book has to be REALLY not for me to cause me to walk away. As I listened to Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, which I had heard wonderful things about, I was battling myself for the first four hours. Something about the early part of this book just wasn’t catching me. I even had a conversation with my friend, Niki. To toss the book aside or not?
In end, I pushed through and I have to say, in this case, I’m glad I did. It doesn’t always work this way, but I got lucky.
Reader, I murdered him. –Jane Steele
The heroine of this tale, Jane Steele, calls back to her favorite fictional character Jane Eyre, however she is very different from Jane Eyre. She is raised on an English estate in the guest house by a French mother who teaches her to believe she should inherit the estate. Quickly, her world changes when her mother dies from overdose. She commits her first murder when her cousin attempts to molest her and she pushes him down a cliff. From there, her Aunt Prudence ships her off to boarding school where horrible experiences await her. After yet another murder, she leaves on foot for London and is followed by a classmate, who isn’t aware of Jane’s guilt, and they attempt to survive the streets of London. Through various situations and years, we find ourselves with Jane as she leaves her work of writing “gallows sheets”, the stories of those who have recently been put to death by hanging. She heads back to her home where there is a new heir, Charles Thornfield, and he is in need of a governess for his ward. Jane is not prepared for what she discovers about the new owner and his staff. Will she prove she should inherit the estate? Will she become entwined in the secrets of those who live on the estate?
What I loved: So, you may be asking yourself why was there a debate about whether to finish the book or not? It was the story of Jane’s childhood. Something about her early story just didn’t click with me. Once I reached Jane as an adult and as she prepared to go back to the estate where she was raised, I was able to really get into the story. Yet, the early story helped to frame who she was as an adult. I’m conflicted about that early part of the story. But, I loved the later part of the story. Faye weaves into her story so much wonderful information about the Punjab history in Lahore and the actions of the East India Company. I loved the religious and cultural details she included. The characters she introduces us to, Mr. Singh the Sikh butler for sure, are a wonderful addition to a gothic tale. The secrets and mysterious events that took place during the Sikh Wars are interesting and I loved how Faye unraveled those.
Would I recommend?: Hmmm. On Goodreads I gave this 3 stars. I would probably actually do 3.5 stars. I would recommend this though to a certain group of people. Those who love the gothic would really like this book. Those who are familiar with the Jane Eyre story, but also loved Dexter, would love this book. Also, those who enjoy Victorian England’s less told stories, like the Sikh Wars, would enjoy this as well.
Backlist bonus: I would throw out Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Those gothic elements really made me think of this book. I would also add Michelle Moran’s The Rebel Queen. Strong female warrior in India.