So have you ever wondered how Jane Eyre would have differed if she had been a murderess? I mean how many of us wanted her to kill her aunt and cousins because they were terrible and who really didn't like how her school treated her while she was there? So this book was really up my alley. The only reason why I gave it four stars was that it did drag a bit in places, and the totally out of the blue of Jane falling for Mr. Thornfield really didn't work for me at all. I could see her fascination with the guy, but I needed more scenes to show me why she fell for him as she did.
Told in the first person, we have a woman named Jane Steele writing her biography because she has become enamored with the tale of "Jane Eyre" and is thinking of the similarities between herself and this fictional character.
Jane as a young child is raised with in a small cottage at Highgate House with her French mother. Jane is told often by her mother that one day she will inherit Highgate House and that they (her mother and her) are doing the right thing by being respectful to Aunt Patience who now resides at the estate with her awful son Edwin. Jane we realize is being forced to deal with a lot at a young age. Her mother's constant drugging of herself and the attention that her cousin Edwin keeps paying to her. I liked that Ms. Faye doesn't hold back with how Jane sees herself throughout the book. She doesn't try to justify anything that she does. But as a reader, I was sympathetic to her at every turn (which probably says more about me than it does about her).
We get introduced to a lot of characters in this book, but it is very easy to keep everyone straight. I think my favorite part of the book was actually when Jane decides to leave Highgate House for a children's home. And I loved Jane's cynical approach to the home and to the teachers and the awful headmaster that runs the place. What came alive for me during this part was all of the children that we are introduced to in that section. I wanted them all to escape and get the hell out of there. When we are introduced to the character of Becky Clarke I was hoping that we would see more of a development of the friendship between Jane and Becky just because that was where it seemed to be heading before the book all of a sudden zig-zagged elsewhere.
I thought the writing was very good, but what really grabbed my attention was the inclusion of the Sikh Empire and the British East India Company into the background of the story. It definitely shows that Ms. Faye really did some research on the Sikh Empire and the era in which the story is taking place. Heck I would have been happy to read a prologue starring Mr. Thornfield and his life long friend now butler Mr. Sardar Singh.
The flow does start to get wonky by the time we move things to Highgate House. I think it's because now Jane is trying to find out what secrets are Mr. Thornfield and Mr. Singh hiding from her and then we get to read about Mr. Thornfield's past. I did scoff at Jane leaving Highgate House though. That was when the book really slowed down for me.
The setting of England during this time shows it to be a hard and brutal place. When Jane returns to Highgate House as an adult, the whole estate to me felt like a fairytale. Everything had been changed here and there to make it more of a home rather than the flat and colorless place that Jane had left.
I did think that the ending reveal did not make a lot of sense though. I know we had to have a truly mad character included in here, but I think since Ms. Faye made such departures here and there from "Jane Eyre" it would have been better to have a slightly different reveal. It just didn't work for me, and having someone have to info dump another person to explain all never works for me in books. I kept waiting for Hercule Poirot to show up and to make everyone sit down while he explained what happened.