Weekly Meeting: Jane Steele

27397628O-M-G! So far, Jane Steele book has been my favorite take-away from the ALA Mid-winter meeting.  Imagine, if you will, Jane Eyre.  You know: orphan, terrible boarding school, Mr. Rochester, St. John (pronounced Sinjin), fires, women driven mad for reasons, more orphans, and ghosts of dead uncles!  Now, keep the same basic idea, but make Jane a serial killer and Mr. Rochester a British man raised in Punjab Province during the wars with the British.  If you don’t know about all that (which most don’t), not only is Wikipedia a good source, but the book talks a lot about it.

Wait, I am getting a head of myself…

Challenges:

  • This is on the conference read-down challenge since I got it at ALA- Mid Winter.
  • I read this as part of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

What You Should Know:

  • It is set in about the 1850s- 60 (give or take).
  • It directly comments on the similarities to Jane Eyre.  Our narrator (Jane Steele) is very aware of her similarities to Eyre.
  • There are bad terrible things done by terrible people, but Jane is here to take care of that.
  • Jane is a seriel killer
  • There is a mystery to solve, it is the last 1/3 of the novel
  • You will learn about what went on in Punjab with the Sikhs and the East India Company (the British company responsible for almost all the shitty things done in the name of the crown).
  • This is NOT chick lit,  but there is some romance.

Discussion:

Yes, there are already discussion questions!

1- From the beginning of the novel, Jane is threatened by men who pose a direct danger to her. If you are female, did you find this peril realistic or unrealistic?

The fact is simple, woman are threatened by men.  I know, not all men.  This is how I see it.  Imagine there is a bowl of M&Ms before you.  Inside that bowl someone has placed 10 poisonous M&Ms, but you don’t know which ones.  What do you do?  Most people would not eat from that bowl.  Now, think of those M&Ms as men in the world.  How are women to know which man is dangerous.  How can we trust, especially when most of us have been threatened by a man in some way?  It’s like you narrowly survived eating the poisonous M&M, but are expected to just go right back to the bowl and try again.

We are lucky when men are clear threats, but very often it is the guy you least expect it to be.  It is the one who looks safe on paper.  Why?  I think entitlement is a huge part of the problem.  Teaching men entitlement is often how they are raised to think.  The ‘nice guy’ is told if he is good, women will flock to him.  If he sticks around; if he shows her he cares; if he listens to her talk; if he hangs out; if he does nice things; and if he is her friend then he is entitled to her affection.  The ones who get aggressive and angry when rejected are the truly dangerous ones.

Jane quickly learns that not all men are good.  She learns to take care of herself.  She also learns that this is not limited to men.  Women are fully capable of being entitled and threatening.  She learns that women can share that same entitlement.  It is not a gender or sex issue, it is a way we socialize: work hard and get what you want. Can we do more than learn to protect ourselves?  I think we should stop teaching children how to be entitled.  I think that may help.

2- Sardar Singh is disgusted by the tragedy that befell his empire, and at one point he asks Jane which is worse, a rapist or a pimp—meaning the East India Company or the Sikh royalty who betrayed their country. How would you answer his question?

This was one of my favorite conversations in the entire book.  The East India Company is responsible for a lot of evil, but those in power and with privilege often want to maintain that.  Which is worst, the rapist or the pimp?  This is a difficult question because they are equally evil because both are about power.  One takes it with violence and the other claims it with control and manipulation.  The pimp makes you think something is in your best interest when it is actually being used to control you.  The rapist takes and terrorizes leaving trauma in the wake.  Alone they are equally bad, but together they are far worse than one can imagine.  The pimp who allows you to be raped makes them both far worse than they can be on their own.

Who Will Like This Book:

  • I would love to say those who like Jane Eyre, but I don’t think they necessarily will.
  • I think those who enjoy seeing a woman in morally questionable situations will enjoy this.
  • I hope people who know something about the wars between the Punjab arm and the EIC will enjoy it for accuracy.
  • Those who enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer and are willing to try something more literary
  • Those who enjoy victorian era heroes, mysteries, and such
  •  I think fans of Jack the Ripper stories and Sherlock Holmes mysteries may like this as well.  Lyndsay Faye is known more for those stories than anything like this.

Other Books Read This Week:

I won’t recap the other books read for the Readathon, but after Saturday, I did finish one more book:

 

PS- if you read this far, wow!  Also, this book is the one for the give-away tomorrow!

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