Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 19th, 2021
From the Bram Stoker-nominated author of The Luminous Dead comes a gothic fantasy horror–The Death of Jane Lawrence.
“Intense and amazing! It’s like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell meets Mexican Gothic meets Crimson Peak.” —BookRiot
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.
Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.
Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Caitlin Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished. (Goodreads)
I started The Death of Jane Lawrence Saturday morning, finished it about 10:30 Sunday night, and then lay in bed for the next two hours unable to sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about this insane book!
I’m going to be honest and say this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Jane is brilliant, but a bit of a cold fish and it takes a few chapters to connect with her. I did wind up really liking her though and was thoroughly invested in what she was experiencing before long. Except for a couple of emotional breakdowns (and honestly, who could blame her?) she uses logic and deductive reasoning to great effect. Although I had my doubts about Augustine, I wound up loving him as well and emphasized with his tortured past. I wanted more than anything for them to get their happy ending.
While the plot itself vaguely reminds me of a mashup up of Rebecca, Crimson Peak, and Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, this is truly something unique. It’s combination of gothic horror, historical fantasy, and metaphysics set in an alternate world that closely resembles Victorian England. There are some grotesquely gory scenes in regards to surgeries and magical side effects that made me a little squeamish, so I can definitely see certain readers being bothered. The reason why I’m not giving it a full 5 stars is because while the majority of the book was fast paced, the final third slowed down considerably. Whereas part of the book’s strength until then was the detailed prose, near the end it got repetitive and too drawn out leaving me impatient. However, there’s a spectacular twist which brings things to a perfect finish in my opinion.
Despite my issues with the concluding chapters, The Death of Jane Lawrence is a memorable read that is bound to haunt your thoughts long after you’ve put it down. Almost from the beginning, the story and its characters kept me consistently off balance, and I never knew what to expect. I love authors who aren’t afraid to take chances with their creations, and Caitlin Starling definitely fits into this category.