Reviews

The Death of Jane Lawrence, by Caitlin Starling

jenniferfrye's review

Go to review page

4.0

I received an advance copy of this book for free from Netgalley.

Actual rating: 4.5 stars.

This was, overall, just fantastic. It was everything I had wanted and expected from a gothic romance/haunted house horror story, while still being innovative and surprising. The cast was fascinating: Jane in particular felt fully realized and sympathetic as a character, and the psychological elements of this novel were believable and captivating. I also love what Starling did with the overall theme (of shame), and her creative melding of mathematics and magic. To top it off, it was beautifully written and absolutely horrifying.

I knocked off a half star because it got off to a rough start. In the opening chapters, the writing style seemed a bit amateur, and worse, major plot points seemed unnecessarily contrived: specifically, I didn't really buy the reasoning behind Jane's very rushed engagement, her immediate participation in Augustine's surgery, and especially the events that led to her 1) arriving at Lindridge Hall, and then 2) staying there past the first night. These decisions did not make sense to me outside of needing to happen for plot purposes, and also seemed like they could have easily been replaced with other explanations/events that would have been more believable and made more sense given the characters' personalities.

However, once Jane finally arrives at Lindridge Hall, Starling really hits her stride. From then out, the novel is tense and terrifying and full of twists and turns that I could have never predicted (that ending…).

I can't wait to see what Starling does next!

maryamorevnas's review

Go to review page

5.0

Thank you to the publishers and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I would say this hit at about 4.5 stars for me.

I have to say I’m not usually a horror reader but because this had a fantasy element and came recommended by an author I follow (Lyndall Clipstone) I decided to give it a shot! I had read the author’s novella Yellow Jessamine and it was decent but I didn’t love it. The Death of Jane Lawrence had been compared to Crimson Peak, Mexican Gothic, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Ninth House, Rebecca, Haunting of Hill House, and more, so I had high hopes for it.

The Death of Jane Lawrence follows Jane Shoringfield, a practical and logical woman who decides she must get married as her guardians are moving away and she will no longer be able to afford to live with them. She makes a list of suitors and decides the town’s doctor and trained surgeon, Augustine Lawrence, is the most fitting candidate. So she gives him a proposal: we marry, but it is a business agreement, I will work for you, I will live separate from you, and we’ll both have our freedoms. Augustine, eventually, accepts, on the one stipulation that Jane must never spend the night at his crumbling estate, Lindridge Hall.
But on the night of their wedding, as Jane is taken back to the town, Jane’s carriage is swept away in a flash flood/mudslide, and Jane is forced to make the trek back to Lindridge Hall and stay the night. But the Augustine she left at sunset is not the Augustine she finds during the storm: instead a haunted and terrified man who barely recognizes her.
The Death of Jane Lawrence turns into part haunted house story, part gothic love story, and part mystery fantasy, as Augustine is haunted by the patients he’s lost and a past he doesn’t like to speak of, Jane sees reflections of a woman with blood red eyes following her, Jane is led into a secret society of magicians, and the painful and deadly cost of magic becomes clear.

I was completely fascinated by the beginning of this book. I loved the marriage of convenience trope, that, naturally, turns into more. I related quite a bit to the main character, Jane, as a more logical person myself. I loved Jane and Augustine’s relationship as it grew, which was a match made in morbid heaven. (Wedding bands made out of human bone!) Him being a surgeon added a sort of body horror into the story, as well as the magic system.

I loved trying to decipher and figure out what direction this book could take. (Is the husband going to try to kill her? Is he a bad guy? What’s the deal with the ghosts? How much is this going to be like Crimson Peak?) and I am pleased to report that as the synopsis promises, The Death of Jane Lawrence did, in fact, completely overturn and upend all expectations. By the end of it, TDOJL was completely bonkers, in the best way possible.

I think the beginning of the book closely follows books of the genre set before it, the marriage, the spooky and decaying big house, ghost sightings, (very much Crimson Peak inspired) but it diverges and completely takes a different direction than what you’d come to expect.

I completely devoured this book, feeling as though I quite literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I was compelled, a woman possessed, you could say! I read the first part of the book, stopped myself, then read the rest of the book the following night.

By the end of it I was grappling with making sure I understood the climax/ending and feeling slightly crazed, adrenaline from this book left me reeling at 5 in the morning. I will say that this book does get fairly circular/confusing, so if people prefer more clear cut and straight forward climaxes & resolutions, I’d err on the side of caution before reading this, but I found I didn’t mind it!

My oh-so-eloquent first thoughts upon finishing were probably: what in the absolute fuck. Wow.

I will also note because I quite literally never read horror, I didn’t read it expecting to be scared. And I wasn’t. It was spooky and exciting for sure, though!

I will definitely be buying this come October and can’t wait to add it to my print book collection. I absolutely LOVE the cover as well.

sara_landon's review

Go to review page

5.0

what a mindfuck. i'm thoroughly disgusted, intrigued, and satisfied all at the same time.

larissazreads's review

Go to review page

dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

readingonastar's review

Go to review page

2.0

i should probably just accept the fact that gothic literature is not my thing(unless it's a classic)

corareads's review

Go to review page

dark emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

stregamorte's review

Go to review page

dark mysterious medium-paced

4.0

Did you like Crimson Peak but hated Thomas's sister? Then do I have the book for you. 

This was a book that kind of creeps up on you. Within our first chapter we meet Jane and Dr. Augustine Lawrence, there's a marriage proposal, and we understand that Jane is almost analytical to a fault. Augustine only agrees to the marriage if Jane never comes to his family home. Obviously through a series of misunderstandings and accidents Jane ends up at Lindridge Hall, the manor is crumbling and has an abandoned feel to it. It is anything but abandoned, and there is more to Augustine than he originally let on; and Jane is going to get to the bottom of things. 

I really enjoyed this book, despite expecting some of the plot points. It was beautifully atmospheric, and I could so vividly visualize Lindridge Hall. Points were unexpectedly gorey, so I'd read with caution if that's something that you are sensitive to. I would love to see this adapted into either a movie or a mini series. Think Guillermo del Toro or Mike Flanagan getting their hands on this story *swoon* 

bookisheda's review

Go to review page

3.0

3 ☆☆☆

The Death of Jane Lawrence was a captivating and interesting read! The slow burn and gothic scenery/visuals were amazinggg. The beginning of the book has graphic scenes that as much as they were disturbing will pull you in and leave you wondering what’s going to happen next! I liked our main character Jane. She was very logical and practical. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the 2nd. The last half of the book fell a bit flat to me, I didn’t feel connected and the story could have benefited from being shorter as some parts were a bit dragged out. Overall, this was a solid read for me.

Thank you to St Martins Press and Netgalley for an eARC copy of The Death of Jane Lawrence!

bookishthots's review

Go to review page

5.0

Did you want Rebecca to be creepier? Looking for something that feels vaguely House of Leaves? Want something that will give you weird nightmares? Look no further than this book.

Jane Shoringfield is well aware of the realities of unmarried life as a woman, and though she has never been the romantic sort, she hatches a plan to create a list of unmarried men that she could work out a marriage of convenience for. A man with enough money to sustain them both in exchange for her work as an accountant, no romance required. Her first choice, the odd town doctor, Augustine Lawrence, bows to her initial ask and allows her into his life. The perfect arrangement--he stays each night at his family estate, Lindridge Hall, she manages his finance. They both have the respectable public face of marriage while maintaining their independence.

That is, until she begins to feel something for Augustine. And he begins to feel something back.

A storm, a mudslide, an unanswered knock at the door of the family estate she promised Augustine she'd never spend a night in.

Suddenly, Jane is forced to confront the fact that her husband is not all that he appeared to be, secrets lurking behind the wallpaper of the crumbling Lindridge Hall.

This was such a wonderful, wonderful book. Caitlin Starling's prose is gorgeous and pulls you in, making it nearly impossible to put this book down. This magical twist on classic gothic novels like Rebecca will make you afraid to turn out the light at night. Jane is compelling and real, her power, drive, and passion propelling her to be the heroine of the story as the men around her fail her again and again. It's hard to detail just how brave and whip-smart she is without spoiling much of the plot, but as her story unravels you cannot help but be captivated by her.

The mystery and the horror Starling creates in Lindridge Hall has some serious staying power, the house becoming its own character as in House of Leaves and Mexican Gothic. You will be kept on the edge of your seat as you question your own eyes and Jane as a narrator as the story unfolds.

And the ENDING. Just you wait. That's all I'll say on that.

Get yourself some good mood music, a few candles, and dive into this brilliant, rich story.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

miserablewizard03's review

Go to review page

dark tense slow-paced

5.0