Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye

Agatha Christie points out in one of her titles: “Murder Is Easy”. Not the first one, necessarily; there is usually a basic human revulsion for taking another’s life. But once that first notch is on one’s belt, subsequent murders/executions/assassinations come more readily. Or so she says – I know nothing about the matter personally, of course, dear Reader.

I think I object to this book being called a retelling of Jane Eyre. Jane Steele knows the book, and recognizes her similarities to fictional-for-her-Jane, and indeed the idea to become a governess is pleasing to her because of the book. I think it’s more an homage, a love letter to the book, as This Jane’s life echoes and mimics That Jane’s; who’s to say that some of the decisions This Jane made weren’t influenced by That Jane? (I suspect the epithet “you impudent elf” might have been.)

It took a little while for me to click with Jane. I lost heart in the midst of her childhood, perhaps disappointed that this was not at all like the Lyndsay Faye books I’ve read and loved before. I admit it was purely duty to Netgalley that dragged me back to give it another try. Thank goodness. Once it did click, it clicked, and there was no looking back – I loved every minute.

I loved the writing. “The girl who had broken off from the line was twelve, with a moon face which was so beautiful I had no notion whether she should be congratulated or censured for taking matters a trifle too far.”

I loved learning something new (such as about the aara, which is horrifying and awesome), and relearning something I’d forgotten (like the definition of “ferengi”, which – have I mentioned I’m a Trekkie?).

I loved the horses. I always take note of how a writer handles horses, whether they’re given names, whether they’re given personalities, and – most importantly – with what level of knowledge they’re depicted. They were beautifully handled here.

I loved the entirely unexpected exploration of Colonial – and violently post-Colonial – India. Shades of The Little Princess and perhaps a more accurately drawn Woman in White; fascinating.

I loved the children. You read that correctly: I, who usually can’t stand children in fiction and particularly precocious children, loved Jane-as-child and her poor unfortunate schoolmates, and most especially Sahjara.

I adored Sardar. What a marvelous character. I’m still trying to incorporate his usual response into my daily conversation.

“Your advice is loathsome, Sardar, and it disendears me to you.”
“So often the way with advice…”

And as for Jane and her Charles…

Surprise! I loved them.

So often the way with Lyndsay Faye’s books…

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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