On the first page of Jane Steele, Lyndsay Faye’s fierce female protagonist confesses that she is a murderer. “Of all my many murders, the first was the most important.’’ Thus begins her autobiography recounting how she became a killer.
Steele is enamored with a new novel called Jane Eyre and finds she shares similarities with Charlotte Bronte’s heroine. Both Janes lose beloved parents at young ages and end up living with hateful aunts and abusive cousins. Both girls eventually are shipped off to gloomy schools where the headmasters are ruthless and starve students for any slight misbehavior. While they are subjected to despicable cruelty, they handle their circumstances differently. Jane Eyre copes and tries to fit in. Steele lives up to her surname and becomes cold and hard against her abusers.
While Lindsay Faye’s novel is a tribute the Bronte classic, Jane Steele has an original voice and story. In Victorian times, women like Eyre had to play the hands they were dealt and rely on the kindness of others. Steele decides she is not going to be a victim. This tough woman also has a code of ethics, and only despicable people suffer her wrath. The result is an irreverent, sometimes humorous look at the plight of women during a time when they had little power over their circumstances.
I highly recommend Jane Steele, which is a fresh, delightful page-turner. I also recommend Faye’s mystery trilogy about the beginnings of the New York City Police Department, starting with The Gods of Gotham. She is a true talent.