The tale of a murderous governess

Cover of Jane Steele: A confessionIf you loved the Brontë classic Jane Eyre but always wished Jane had been a bit more… murderous then Lyndsay Faye’s novel, Jane Steele: A confession may be just your glass of arsenic-laden brandy.

The novel follows another unfortunate 19th century orphan girl looking for her place in the world, but she’s a good deal “spunkier” and prone to violence than Miss Eyre. In fact, she’s rather more modern than Jane Eyre in a number of ways (sex, swearing, self-defense etc.)

Jane Steele’s life is a mirror to Eyre’s in many ways from attendance at an abominable boarding school to securing a place as governess in a home that harbours secrets. Although the deaths are always justified after a fashion, the bodies do start to pile up and a worryingly perceptive policeman may just be onto her.

Author Lyndsay Faye is a fan of Charlotte Brontë’s novel and in the historical afterword reveals that it was the author’s scathing rebuff to her critics in the preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre that partly inspired her to write the novel, in particular the quote, “Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion”.

And so she’s succeeded in creating an unconventional heroine imbued with more than a little “self-wrongedness”. Jane (Steele, that is), doubts herself, her worth and her goodness constantly but loves fiercely and loyally… much like that other Jane.

There’s a good deal of mystery in the story from Jane’s mystery inheritance to the traumatic past of her young charge and the plot gallops along like a runaway horse making it a fairly riveting page-turner, and… Reader, I devoured it.

So if ladies in corsets (who also carry knives in their skirts) sounds your thing then I’d highly recommend Jane Steele for your next wet weekend.

Further reading

Dorothy Must Die!: The End of Oz

“What did you do with the girl, Princess Ozma?” asked Glinda; and at this question everyone slowly bent forward and listened eagerly for the reply. “I enchanted her,” answered Mombi. “In what way?” inquired Glinda. “I transformed her into — into — “Go on!” Glinda said. “To a boy! “―The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)

Cover of The end of Oz
The End of Oz, 4th title in the Dorothy must die series

Dorothy Must Die! is a young adult fantasy series by Danielle Paige; a new take on The Wizard of Oz, (which itself had many sequels). The End of Oz is the last (4th) book of the series.

I love how this series turns the Dorothy myth around. Dorothy and her cronies have turned BAD; corrupted by power and magic. The ruby slippers, for instance, may have come from a not-so-pro-Oz source…

It’s up to another girl, Amy Gumm, to wipe her out. Amy has been plucked from Kansas in a trailer tornado, and flown to Oz by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. In this story she is flown on the Yellow Brick road, across the Deadly Desert, with her her boyfriend Nox, and her arch enemy Madison.

Why have they landed in Ev, Kingdom of the Nome King? And why have they ended up at the gates of Princess Langwidere’s palace?

Many familiar characters are revived in the series, including Mombi (the Wicked Witch of the North), who first appears in The Marvellous Land of Oz, a book I remember reading in my childhood.

With peer rivalry between the two female protagonists, and the angst of teen relationships, this novel addresses some teen experiences using the realm of fantasy. It’s hip, using the kind of language teens speak today and references to recent teen culture (there’s a Punk-Goth Munchkin…)

Will Ozma ever be restored to her rightful place on the throne of Oz? Read on…

The End of Oz
by Danielle Paige
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780062660237

The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen book clubP D James once famously said that Jane Austen’s books were “Mills and Boon written by a genius” which goes a long way to explaining their enduring appeal, I suppose.  Austen’s novels have remained popular over the years and it is she, more than any other who has inspired contemporary “chicklit” authors in tales of love and misunderstandings.

 The Jane Austen Book Club (currently screening in New Zealand cinemas) is about a group of Austen appreciaters who gather to discuss her works but find that their own love lives mirror those of the characters in her novels.  The recent release of the movie which is based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler prompted me to wonder – how many other books out there are inspired by the works of the fabulous Miss Austen?  Continue reading