As part of my Bronte Project, I’m aiming to read books inspired by the Brontes, as well as their actual books. When I saw that Lyndsay Faye had written a novel that was inspired by Jane Eyre, but featured a serial killing governess, I had to take a look.
In this novel, Jane Steele has many parallels to her favourite heroine: she is an orphan, the victim of a vindictive aunt and sent to a horrible boarding school. She becomes a governess and has a strong sense of justice. Unfortunately, this has a habit of ending with someone else being dead, but you can’t have everything in life, can you?
Pursued by the law, Jane applies for a job as governess at her ancestral home, now owned by an eccentric medic and staffed by his Indian household. Here, Jane learns that betrayal can run deep and the ties that bind can be found in surprising places.
I enjoyed this book, although I found some of the history quite dense in places (there’s a lot about the relationship between the East India Company and Sikhs in the Punjab that was quite tricky at times). Jane is a likeable character and she frequently refers back to her namesake, so it’s quite easy to spot her lineage and where Faye was inspired. I thought the descriptions of the Indian culture and its place in a staid Victorian home was vivid and actually really interesting; many books that are set in the period are so gloomy and grey, or India is just a sidenote. It’s quite easy to forget just how important India was to the Empire and the effect it had back in Britain. And for those Rochester fans among us (yes, you know how I feel), there is a romance with a very familiar feel to it in this book.
It’s a bit of an undertaking to re-invent such an iconic novel, especially when it’s published in an important anniversary year. But I think Faye has managed to create a stylish, fun take on the original and it’s definitely one for Jane Eyre fans to check out.