2017 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel
A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.”
“Young Jane Steele’s favorite book, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, mirrors her life both too little and too much…In an arresting tale of dark humor and sometimes gory imagination, Faye has produced a heroine worthy of the gothic literature canon but reminiscent of detective fiction.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Reader, I murdered him.”
A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.
Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?
A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||9.10(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
Lyndsay Faye is the author of five critically acclaimed books: Dust and Shadow; The Gods of Gotham, which was nominated for an Edgar for Best Novel; Seven for a Secret; The Fatal Flame; and Jane Steele. Faye, a true New Yorker in the sense she was born elsewhere, lives in New York City with her husband, Gabriel.
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Excerpted from "Jane Steele"
Copyright © 2017 Lyndsay Faye.
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Reading Group Guide
JANE STEELE READER’S GUIDE QUESTIONS
1. When Jane Steele sets out to write her confession, she says she is doing so because she is reading Jane Eyre, and the work inspires her to “imitative acts.” Has a book ever directly inspired you to create something yourself? If so, was this when you were you a child or an adult?
2. From the beginning of the novel, Jane is threatened by men who pose a direct danger to her. If you are female, did you find this peril realistic or unrealistic? If you are male, did you think Jane’s vulnerability rang true, or did it seem like melodrama?
3. The sadistic-headmaster trope, here embodied by Vesalius Munt, was very popular in the Victorian era among social justice writers. At the time, children were expected to be silent, obedient, and hardworking. Children are treated very differently today. What do you think a Victorian childhood would have been like? How would it have affected you?
4. Jane is convinced from the day she kills her cousin that she is irredeemably evil. Do you agree with her that she “murdered” her cousin? Why or why not? Do you think Jane’s later murders would have occurred if she had never caused Edwin’s death?
5. When Jane discovers erotica, she is repulsed by Mr. Munt’s letters, but she greatly enjoys the book published by Clarke’s family in which consensual polyamorous relationships are explored. Do men and women experience the erotic differently? If so, in what ways?
6. Jane Steele and Clarke have a passionate friendship, one that eventually puts both their lives on the line. The theme of “best friends” is common in literature, for instance Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and Aibileen and Minny in The Help. Which friendships in fiction do you most identify with?
7. In London, Jane makes her living writing last confessions of the recently hanged. Many people are fascinated by the macabre; are you? Why or why not? Why are darkness and death such popular subjects when they are actually unpleasant topics?
8. Jane Steele enters the mysterious Gothic mansion thinking herself the owner, while Jane Eyre arrives as a governess. How does the power dynamic change the sorts of actions each of these characters takes after arriving? What are the biggest contrasts between Jane Steele and the character she loves? What are the greatest similarities?
9. Highgate House is full of mysteries—men with a dark past, unexpected and sinister visitors, and a forbidden cellar not unlike the forbidden attic in Jane Eyre. What is it we love about Gothic mansions? Can a house itself have secrets? A major component of the plot is the contested claim to Highgate House. In what ways may the property be considered a character?
10. Charles Thornfield and Edward Fairfax Rochester are both Byronic men plagued by their pasts, and yet they react to trauma in very different ways. In Jane Eyre, which lover is the pursuer, and which the pursued? What about in Jane Steele?
11. Sardar Singh is disgusted by the tragedy that befell his empire, and at one point he asks Jane which is worse, a rapist or a pimp—meaning the East India Company or the Sikh royalty who betrayed their country. How would you answer his question? In what ways has Sardar turned his back on his culture, and in what ways does he still cherish it?
12. There are many types of love in this novel—among others, the romantic love Jane feels for Mr. Thornfield, the unrequited love Clarke feels for Jane, the platonic love the asexual Mr. Singh feels for Mr. Thornfield. What other varieties of love are evident, and how do they drive the characters’ actions? Which are the most compelling to you personally? Do you think making choices that are morally wrong is excusable if it is done for the sake of a loved one? Why or why not?
Writing Jane Steele came rather naturally to me because I adore Jane Eyre so much. Like my protagonist, I've read it a number of times, and have been alternately enthralled and appalled by its contents.
Is the original Jane amazing? Absolutely, and she'd prefer to wander into the woods without a penny to her name than stay with the fellow who lied to her about that little "attic wife" matter. Is Jane frustrating? Yes, because the instant she even listens to St. John talking, let alone entertains the notion of possibly marrying him, my blood pressure rises stratospherically.
Ultimately, this book came about because I thought that Charlotte Bronte wrote one of the bravest novels of all time, and if she had been granted unnatural longevity, she would have written a different book today. I'm allowed to write Jane Steele because of the women who lived before my time and were more courageous than I am. At a certain point, Jane Steele remarks that Jane Eyre inspires her to pen "imitative" acts. That's what I was doing at the end of the day, really—attempting to capture the compassion we feel for people who have lost their path, the anger women experience when feminism is mischaracterized, and the cruelty many humans survive without becoming cowards.
They don't merely survive, though. On the contrary. They grow better and better every day, because they continue to grow.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this book mostly for her writing style. I love those Victorian Gothic-type novels written by authors like the Brontes. So I was hooked. Looking forward to reading more from her in the future. ~*~LEB~*~
A fantastic story written in the best possible way. It pays great homage to its inspiration in Jane Eyre, but it's very much its own story.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings As Jane Eyre week continues, this was the first book I thought of when I knew I was going to do this week. I went to the signing for this book a bit ago and it has sat on my shelf because even though the author said I could read without reading Jane Eyre I knew I would want to do Jane Eyre first before reading this one. Overall this book was a great adaptation of the book and I loved how it was formatted exactly like Jane Eyre. With three volumes that divide up the story, it was fun to read a story in that format again. I absolutely loved that Jane Steele clearly referenced and referred to the original work Jane Eyre, she was obvious in the way that she spoke about Jane Eyre and I liked the transparency.
I love this book. It is about Jane Steele, whose wealthy father passed away. His sister made her and her "less than" mother move out of the main house into the cottage on the grounds. It is about a teen girl until a lady. She is forced to choose to go to private school when her mother dies. She stays there four years, until a situation forces her to leave and live on the streets of London. The whole time, she believes her home was the grand estate, not the cottage that she had lived on. I haven't read a Bronte book before, but she addresses the reader and says what may be different from the two books. Now, I wish I had read one so I could know a bit what she meant. But, I don't believe that takes away from the good read that this book provides. It has mystery, suspense, and intrigue throughout. I know you would love it as well. Thank you to Lindsay Faye and Goodreads First Reads for allowing me to win this book to read and write up an honest review.
I love Jane Eyre. Love it. One of the best classics of all time really. So I was a bit apprehensive to read this. Having said that I had read Lyndsay Faye’s other novels and was blown away so I had faith that this was not going to be a Jane Eyre with attitude novel. I was not disappointed as this was so much more. SO much more. Lyndsay not only evokes and alludes to the time of Jane Eyre and to the story but fully immerses you inside that world and in the minds of both Janes - Eyre and Steele. The novel follows the story of Jane Eyre in as much as the move from school to governess but the real link is how Steele uses the novel as some sort of spiritual guidance. Whilst drinking gin and killing people of course. Although not always on purpose. The writing is quite genius and I don’t use the world lightly. She only does what she needs to do in order to survive. Life of the two Janes may have parallels but this is no Jane Eyre mark 2. This Jane’s life goes off on one tangent after another. Reader I murdered him’ may be the best line ever in a novel. It not only reminds you of the original novel but shows the wit and satire of this story. It’s a romance, a victorian satirical romance, evocative in tone, nature and language and the way it changes from Jane’s story to one immerses in Sikh history and intrigue was nothing short of genius. I really can’t say too much more without giving some of the plot away but cast your doubts aside and welcome Jane Steele into your home - steele by name and steele by nature
Jane Steele is written directly to the reader. It is a story told by Jane Steele for the readers. This is the story that is told of how Jane Steele perceived her life. It is not an easy story. Her life was not easy. There is the loss of loved ones, murder, being homeless, and so much more. The story moved at a good pace with never a boring minute. There are many recollections of Jane Eyre. I have never read Jane Eyre and was concerned that I would miss some of this story. I did not! I followed the story easily. Some have said that it would be helpful to read Jane Eyre first, but I am fine with not having read it first. You may wonder why I choose to read Jane Steele if I was not a fan of Jane Eyre. I have to say it is the cover. It is unique and beautiful. It drew me into the story before I even opened the book. They say not to judge a book by its cover but in this case it had to be the reason for me starting the book.
I LOVED this book!! Jane was quite the little protagonist and she nor any of her friends were going to take any crap off of anyone. Neither Jane nor the reader knows a lot of the secrets about Jane until close to the end of the book. However, what the reader does learn and find out will definitely make you want to keep on reading. She is quite the instigator, but only when pushed into being so. And then, watch out. You do not want to be on her bad side. This was one of those books that I could not put down. It just would not let me. There were so many things going on and Jane just a child out in the world on her own. It's truly a wonder she made it all. Lyndsay Faye describes the roughness of London down to a tee, in fact you can even smell the odors coming from the street and the people. While I love reading about that time period, I could never live then. Gross!! When I saw that this book was not about Timothy or Valentine at all, I was a little disappointed, but my disappointment did not last long. I immediately liked Jane and her thoughts and how she would talk to the "reader". It gave it a more personal feel for me. Maybe that is how Jane Eyre is written, alas, I must admit I have never read it. :( I have read this one though, and I most certainly recommend it. I think it is her best book yet!! There is a little bit of everything in here. Suspense, kidnapping, murder, romance, theft, spying, treason, embezzlement and a little basic edge of your seat action. HA! Pick it up and see what you think. Huge thanks to Putnam Books for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.