Jane Steele follows its namesake as she makes her way through England in the 1800s as an orphan. Reminiscent of Jane Eyre, Steele is orphaned, sent to boarding school, becomes a governess, and falls in love with the man in charge of her ward. That is where the similarities between these two novels end. In this story, Lyndsay Faye takes Victorian England and a female protagonist and every Brontë sister, Austen-esque cliché of the era and turns them into a compelling, contemporary story of loss, love, and the drive to survive.
I am tempted to write a book review that falls back on my English major training and compares and contrasts with Jane Eyre, but that wouldn’t do this book justice. In an attempt not to write a literary analysis, here we go: Jane Steele as a character is very aware of herself and of her audience; the book is told as an autobiography. And starts with her first murder. Don’t worry I’m not spoiling anything yet, the story opens with: “Of all my many murders, committed for love and for better reasons, the first was the most important.” (1)
Spoilers under the cut.