karen's Reviews > Jane Steele

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
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Mar 06, 2016

really liked it
bookshelves: thanks-for-prezzies, girls-gone-wild

Oh, I knew who I was - a scarlet-toothed tigress, one forever burdened by the iron weight of her own black stripes.

many thanks to the great anmiryam for passing this arc my way, because it was so exactly what i wanted to read, i don't even feel bad about letting it cut the line of book-suitors already vying for my attentions.

i read a lot of reviews here on goodreads.com. and while i have a pretty good memory for books i have read, i frequently forget the specific content of reviews after i read them. if the book interests me based on a review, i add it to my to-read list, "like" the review, and move along. so in my head, i misremembered this book as being a retelling of Jane Eyre in which jane herself was a serial killer. but that's not it at all - it's much cheekier and more interesting than that.

this follows the life and bloody trail of jane steele, whose experiences mirror Jane Eyre in some ways, but is a much easier character for a modern reader to applaud. don't get me wrong, Jane Eyre is a great book, but i personally get a little impatient with the way she sabotages her own happiness based on her notions of propriety or morality and the conventions of her time. it's all perfectly reasonable behavior when you're reading with your scholar-glasses on, but it's not always easy to shelve those modern sensibilities that would prefer jane push up her sleeves and call rochester out on his bullshit instead of quietly absconding to suffer alone on that moral high ground.

this jane is always pushing up her sleeves, but mostly to avoid getting blood all over them.

it's a fantastically funny and winky companion book. jane steele, after being orphaned and suffering at the hands of a bitter aunt and an amorous cousin, commits her first murder at the age of nine:

I don't know the term for a child who falls asleep after her first murder and before confessing her sins, but I suspect it is not an intensely complimentary one.

before being shipped off to a boarding school worse than the one ms. eyre endures, but this jane knows how to handle herself in a much more proactive way.

I cocked my head and gauged his condition: dead.

she has all the qualities that make jane eyre so formidable and likable; she's protective of those who are more vulnerable than she is, she's resourceful and brave and determined, but she's … amplified from her literary predecessor, and she takes care of business when business needs taking care of.



the novel is presented as an autobiography, with a twist: I have been reading over and over again the most riveting book titled Jane Eyre, and the work inspires me to imitative acts. the language, locations, and details are all in keeping with a traditional victorian novel, but jane frequently addresses and deflates their conventions in her own story -

There is no practice more vexing than that of authors describing coach travel for the edification of people who have already travelled in coaches. As I must adhere to form, however, I will simply list a series of phrases for the unlikely reader who has never gone anywhere: thin eggshell dawn-soaked curtains stained with materials unknown to science; rattling fit to grind bones to powder; the ripe stench of horse and driver and bog. Now I have fulfilled my literary duties…

and more succinctly:

Some memoirs explain social hierarchies by means of illustrative anecdotes, but mine is about homicide, not ladies' schools.

she continues to reference Jane Eyre both directly and indirectly, as jane at twenty-four becomes governess to the ward of mr. thornfield, an enigmatic man who himself has outsider qualities from having lived so long abroad in punjab, adopting "foreign" ways less restrictive than those typical in england at the time, allowing jane's less demure female characteristics room to unfurl in all their glory, to his great delight.

it's all-around fantastic and it reads like a funnier sarah waters. faye has that facility for historical description that's so impressive in waters:

Some cities bustle, some meander, I have read; London blazes, and it incinerates. London is the wolf's maw. From the instant I arrived there, I loved every smouldering inch of it.

A lad hunched against a shoddy dressmaker's dummy slumbered in, cradled by his faceless companion. The atmosphere was redolent - meat sat piled up to a shop door's limit of some six feet, the butcher sharpening massive knives before his quarry. Yesterday's cabbage was crushed underfoot, and tomorrow's cackling geese were arriving in great crates, ready to kill. So early, the square we passed through ought to have been populated only be spectres. Instead, sounds reverberated from all directions - treble notes from a bamboo flute; the breathy scream of a sardine costermonger; the bass rumble of a carrot vendor, his cart piled with knobby red digits, shouting as his donkey staggered in the slick.

It was not welcoming, but it was galvanising. Arguing with London was useless; she was inexorable, sure as the feral dawn.


and she writes every character to full-color perfection.

i howl for clarke. 'nuff said.

it's just great stuff; a more feminist version of a story that was already scandalously feminist for its time, but it's not agenda-laden, it's just a sly, calm dissection and reconstruction of something familiar given a fierce new makeover.

reader, i recommend it.

come to my blog!
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Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin Oh, I want to read this! I can't wait for your review so hurry up :-D


karen i am 1/4 through!


Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin I hope it's good!! I think it's on my Amazon wishlist. My bday is next month (April) and I have a billion things on there :-D


karen oh, so far i'm loving it! it will give you happy birthday joy!


Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin Happy happy happy joy joy!! I'm using the phone so can't post a pic of a happy dance but you can imagine :-D


karen i definitely can . i know those dances...


Anmiryam I knew I was sending that ARC to it's proper home!


karen oh man, YES! thank you times a million! SO DAMN GOOD!


message 10: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Smith Awesome review! I've added it to my burgeoning TBR list - but may jostle it up a little higher as it sounds like my kind of book!


message 11: by Jason (new)

Jason I have a copy of this on my desk...Hmm...


karen Sue wrote: "Awesome review! I've added it to my burgeoning TBR list - but may jostle it up a little higher as it sounds like my kind of book!"

jostle that puppy.


karen Jason wrote: "I have a copy of this on my desk...Hmm..."

oh, you have a desk?? must be nice!!


message 14: by Micah (new)

Micah Lee This sounds EXACTLY like something I would love. Can't wait :)


Dorianna I have been been very impatiently waiting for this books release. Everything I read about this book makes it seem like this is a book I must read immediately.


Jaylynny Lindsay Faye is a goddess. The Timothy Wilde books are amazing and only thing assuaging my grief at their completion is the anticipation of this ripe gem.


message 17: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Fantastic review, Karen. I've been eagerly anticipating this one and really enjoy her Timothy Wilde series as well.


message 18: by Bark (new)

Bark I want to be a scarlet-toothed tigress :)


message 19: by Mallory (new) - added it

Mallory great review! I just received my arc so hopefully, it'll live up to my VERY HIGH expectations (I love Jane Eyre)


karen Bark's Book Nonsense wrote: "I want to be a scarlet-toothed tigress :)"

it's not so hard - just become a machine of REVENGE! or justice. i like revenge better.

i really want to read her other books now...


Jaylynny They're probably a bit different from Jane Steele. But oh so delicious.


karen well, i like her writing style, so i'm sure i'll get addicted!


message 23: by Lily (new)

Lily Oooh, I...uh...didn't like Jane Eyre [the character] so this is just what I need!


Susan I've been on tenterhooks to read this novel. I've checked audible probably a half dozen times waiting for it to show up for pre-order at least. Thank you for letting us know about its release. It's now miiiiine! (I hope it can live up to my ridiculously high expectations. ..)


message 25: by Wayong (new) - added it

Wayong Oh, Karen...
Are you my twin separated at birth?
I was on the website of one of my local libraries & the book cover intrigued me, so I tapped on the link for the book description.
Of course, there are a few resources I check out when I'm not familiar w/an author & the book isn't already on my (ridiculously long) list:
1. Kirkus Reviews or NYT book reviews (I'm not terribly fond of Publishers' Weekly & Booklist is useful for upcoming titles than reviews)
2. NPR
3. Jeff Vandermeer
4. Seth Meyers & Chris Hardwick
5. Goodreads (used to go on Amazon, but people like the so-called "Chris Matthews" give fake reviews)
6. & on Goodreads, certain reviewers including a couple of like-minded writer friends & librarians and...
7. (The magic number!) You!

I started reading the above review & was unduly impressed & thought of following that reviewer until I realised it was you. ;-P
***
Anyhoo, I'm not a huge fan of the Bronte sisters (at least as an adult reader). Your description does recall one of my favourite mystery series (& again, I grew out of reading mysteries at a young age, Ohran Pamuk, Iain Pears & Eco (you will be missed, Umberto!!) notwithstanding)-- Flavia de Luce, by Alan Bradley.

Considering that I've always adored Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Dan Simmons & the cheeky & precocious 11 yr old sleuth & poisoner, Flavia de Luce but find Jane Eyre as annoyingly cloying & anti-feminist in the end, would I like Jane Steele?

As much as I joke, not all books I read HAVE to have a (sentient) cat, faeries or magical children, but they do need to have a strong hook for me to dive into them.

Have you read the Flavia books? I find them wicked fun & like Dr. Who episodes, they stand on their own but have an underlying storyline that pull the series together. I highly recommend them & are great books to read between heftier novels.


karen i haven't read them, no, but i've been intrigued by them before and i like how they are colored like easter candy. i may well check them out at some point, if i ever get to take a breath in between these books i just HAVE TO READ & etc. since we are twinsies and all!

i think this book is especially for people like you (and me) who like the book j.e., but are a little irritated by the character of j.e. and her decisions. this character is cheekier and funnier and, you know... murderier. i say go for it! which i risk being pushed down to number 10 or so if you don't like it, but i'm going for it anyway!


message 27: by Wayong (new) - added it

Wayong Another book that is really fun is "Anybody But Ivy Pocket", a middle grade novel. It's an adventure story w/a mystery & slight touch of the occult.

Ivy, who is 12 to 13 yr old girl, is a horrible governeress who is rotten at everything but thinks she's the bee's knees. She does everyone a favour by just existing & thinks others are dreadful if they don't see her genius & talents (or thinks that others fawn over her even when they are running far, far away to avoid catastrophes that Ivy unintentionally causes). I can't wait for the next book, "Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket!".


karen ooh, i've never heard of that one, thanks! i'm not familiar with many MG books at all.


message 29: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike I'll second the recommendation of the Flavia series by Bradley. They're so much fun and she's a hoot!!

I'll have a look at "Anybody but Ivy Pocket" as that sounds fun as well.


karen i love hoots! i need some hoots in my life!


message 31: by Tom (new) - added it

Tom oh I'm glad you reminded me of this - i forgot i had this to read


karen oh! lucky you! fun times ahead!


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