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The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling – Book Review!

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. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review, and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

After seeing this comped to the likes of Mexican Gothic and Rebecca, I went into The Death of Jane Lawrence with fairly high expectations, and while the story started off strongly, it unfortunately withered away into something I struggled to make sense of and found myself skim reading.

Jane Shoringfield is a sensible woman, she knows in this society she must marry, but she does not feel that she could marry for love and so she uses maths to decide upon the best choice. Reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence is at first put off by Jane’s strange proposal, but he quickly comes to see the sense in it and agrees under one condition, she must never visit Lindridge hall, his ancestral home. Jane, expecting this to be a marriage of convenience and not love agree’s, but one one night when a storm rains out the road she finds herself on his doorstep, wet, bedraggled & with nowhere to go. Augustine let’s her in, but he is not the man she left mere minutes ago, and Jane quickly comes to realise there is something deeply wrong with Lindridge hall, and she must step out of the confines of the known and into the unreal if she and Augustine are to make it out alive.

Jane was a unique character, an orphan after the war took her mother and father, she has been raised by the Shoringfields but knows she can’t stay their ward forever. She always felt like a burden, and so taught herself to do Mr Shoringfields books, making sure she was valuable to them in some way. She likes maths, with it’s clear and defined rules, and simply wishes for a life where she can continue doing what she loves. What she didn’t expect was for Augustine, and the feelings that follow him entering her life. Seeing her step out of her comfort zone was an interesting experience, she has to go from trusting in the factual to believing in the unknown, but she is strong and resilient, and will do anything to save the man she has grown to love. I so wanted to care about her and her actions, but I just really struggled to relate to or care for her in any way.

There are a multitude of side characters, all of whom are written incredibly blandly. I didn’t end up caring about a single one of the characters, they were all one dimensional, and though some were used to effectively further the story, there weer plenty that served little purpose in the story.

As for the mystery of Lindridge hall itself, we somehow both learned what was wrong too early on with it equally seeming like it took an age for us to get there. There were too many ‘fill in’ scenes, that added nothing to the plot, nor ensured we found ourselves caring for the characters. I didn’t expect the magical element to be quite so in your face, and I definitely struggled to get my head around the magic system, how it worked, who could wield it, why it made Lindridge hall the way it was. I do feel this would have worked better had a little more been left to the imagination, with the comps to the likes of Rebecca I expected it to be more of a mystery/horror, when in reality it ended up reading like a gory, slasher style movie that had me more disgusted than intrigued.

I feel like the author just tried to add too many elements to this story, with Augustine’s history, Jane’s Math and the magic it all got forced together until I had literally 0 idea what was happening, I struggled to not only follow the story, but to envision what was actually taking place and I ended up skim reading the last 3rd of the book so see if we would get a semi-interesting and fulfilling ending… we didn’t. Had I not been buddy reading this it would have become a dnf for me around 50% in. I have heard that this is completely different from the authors other works so I would still be willing to check them out, but I would seriously lower my expectations before going in.

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