I’ve seen this book frequently billed as a retelling of Jane Eyre, but that’s not quite what it is. The heroine’s name is also Jane, this is true. She even reads Jane Eyre. But where Jane Eyre is timid and accepting of her fate, Jane Steele is NOT having it. While some story events are similar to those in Jane Eyre and many Victorian novels (e.g. uncaring relatives, horrible schools for girls, intricate backstory), the approach is much different and the result is greatly entertaining. Jane Steele knows herself to be wicked and a murderess. She fully confesses all as she narrates her story, but she truly is a Victorian heroine for the modern age. She can use weapons fairly well, she drinks whiskey, she’s pretty straightforward, and she even manages to get embroiled in a delightfully intricate Victorian plot and fall in love. While modern, the prose still reads very much like a beloved classic, albeit with more blood.
I found this book very hard to put down. I read all 420 pages in one day. The character building of Jane Steele and her relationships with those around her were very well done, but not in a way that slows the story down. The first half of the book is pretty much non-stop, with the narrator not wanting to bog us down by narrating a lot about boring things like riding in a coach. She also skips forward sometimes chronologically. There is a lot of action. In the second half, which is more of a love story, there’s not quite as much action, but watching the heroine develop into a slightly better version of herself as this part of the story unfolds was equally as gratifying for me. Her ability to respect herself as a woman throughout, as well as the diversity of her relationships, really gives the book more of a sense of modernity. The love story is realistic for Victorian literature, and a friendship she develops is much more modern. The fact that both classicism and today’s sensibilities are embraced is part of the strength of this book. If you like Jane Eyre or really any classic Victorian orphan story, I think you’ll love this modern satirical classic as well.
Recommend: Yes, especially for lovers of classic Victorian literature
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Have you read the novel yet? Love it? Hate it? Want to read it? Let me know in the comments!