Publication date: October 5th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and deci...

Review || The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Publication date: October 5th, 2021

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, 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. 

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The Death of Jane Lawrence is a bit of a genre meld: part Victorian-style romance, part gothic horror, with a good splash of the magical realism. It's a odd mix, no doubt.  The first half of the book is traditionally gothic, even if it's based in a world of alternate history. Lindridge Hall is every gothic manor house. The grounds ill-kept, overgrown with vines, dead shrubberies. Inside, it's much the same, with a Winchester House vibe with fake doors, odd hallways, and a locked cellar door. Of course, the house comes with its share of secrets and so does her new husband, Augestine. 

The second half of the book is where things get really odd. I can't say too much without giving away the plot, but think how Mexican Gothic flipped things on its head. You go in expecting a dark past, apparitions, and other gothic accoutrements according to formula but what you get is so much more. Old friends of Augustine's appear at the Hall, bringing metaphysical elements and magic into play. Jane's (and Augestine's) sanity is frequently in question and as she spirals down and down, it gets weird. but in the best way.

I can say without doubt that I loved sensible Jane Shoringfield. Living in a time period where she MUST get married, she makes a list of all the eligible bachelors and lists them off by how likely they are to let her continue with the life she has without disturbing it. She's determined by her careful selection that Dr. Augustine Lawrence is that person. She only has to convince him, which she does, with logic that includes their marriage as a business arrangement. Having spent a lot of time reading Harlequin romances, Jane is exactly the bluestocking kind of character I would choose. Fiercely independent, inquisitive, and ever questioning, she's a force to be reckoned with.

I think those that go in expecting a cut-and-dry gothic ghost story are going to be disappointed with the transcendental twist, but I highly enjoyed it. I favor books that stray outside of the tried and true formula and this one certainly did.