I wasn’t sure if I was really enjoying this novel until about halfway through, when I realized I didn’t want to stop reading it until it was over. And then when it WAS over, I almost started reading it all over again. That’s the second book this year that has brought about this reaction. The first was Uprooted, and honestly, I’m happy enough to experience that feeling just once a year, so I feel sort of selfish for getting to enjoy it twice. Anyway! On to the book…
Our heroine is Jane Steele, naturally and, her favorite novel is Jane Eyre. It’s unclear as to whether her memoir (as she’s certainly writing it as one) shares similarities with the novel because it’s her favorite, or if it’s her favorite because of her life’s similarities to the novel. Or both, maybe? Let’s go with both.
Jane grows up living on a grand estate called Highgate House. Her mother, a French artist with a drug addiction, tells Jane throughout her entire life that Highgate House belongs to her, and that it’s only a matter of time until Jane takes possession of it. Jane’s father died long ago and Jane’s aunt and cousin have taken over the main house, relegating Jane and her mother to an out-of-sight cottage. Jane’s aunt hates both Jane and Jane’s mother, and Jane’s cousin is a super creep who gets his kicks by showing Jane his wing-wang unexpectedly. She later gets her revenge when he tries something even more odious, though it’s a bit of an accident.
You see, Jane, though she tries to be her best, is often put into situations where she feels she has no other choice but to bring about violence. In some cases, it’s to protect herself. In others, it’s to protect beloved friends. She thinks she’s an evil villain for her actions, but readers will be forgiven if they choose to see her as a hero instead.
After her time at an absolutely horrific school, Jane takes a job as a governess for a man named Charles Thornfield, who is now living at Highgate House after spending the majority of his life in India, in the military. His charge is a young woman named Sahjara, who is half Indian, and Jane is surprised to learn that most of the servants in the household are Sikhs. Jane plan is to take back Highgate House in whatever way she can, as she still believes that her mother was telling the truth when she said the estate was rightfully hers, but she’s quickly thwarted by her feelings for the new occupants.
It doesn’t take long for Jane to become enamored with Sahjara, as she’s a remarkable young girl who loves horses almost as much as she loves Mr. Thornfield and her other Sikh caretakers, namely Sardar Singh, the “butler.” Sardar and Thornfield are clearly hiding something, something about Sahjara and what they’re all doing back in England. Jane decides she must figure out what it is, and is single-minded in her quest, at least until her affection for both Sahjara and Thornfield begin to get in the way.
I’m not as familiar with Jane Eyre as I fear I should be, though I have read the novel and obviously watched the Fassbender version that came out a few years ago (several times, if I’m being honest). I don’t think my unfamiliarity with the novel hampered my enjoyment of this book, however, I do now feel the need to reread Jane Eyre, which I can’t imagine is a bad thing. If a book makes me want to immediately pick up another book, that’s like double plus bonus as far as I’m concerned.