Title: The Death of Jane Lawrence
Author: Caitlin Starling
Genre: Horror / Gothic Horror
Page Count: 368
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Date Published: October 5, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org
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.
Well, that’s twice I thought I’d like Gothic Horror only to come out the other side scratching my head, utterly perplexed … I mean, what?
And while it is maybe enjoyable to sometimes yell WHAAAAT? at the end of a story in complete astonished shock, in The Death of Jane Lawrence, I was simply yelling WHAT?!! I mean, WTF just happened? No, seriously. Can someone tell me because I think the author might have forgotten that part. (I kid, I kid.)
For me, The Death of Jane Lawrence got off on the wrong foot from the get-go, I never for one single second enjoyed, bought, rooted for, or engaged in the premise of the “marriage arrangement” that went down in the opening chapter. I just didn’t really see the burning need Jane had to make an arranged marriage. She simply had to move to another city with her kind, well meaning guardians. So yes, the city had some bad memories of her parents deaths, but still. It’s just a move … no need to be hasty, Jane.
Yes, it was nice and creepy at times. Yes, there was a large spooky house with lighting issues. Yes, there was lotsandlotsandlots of blood, so we can officially check this off as horror. (In all seriousness, if it isn’t obvious from the cover MAJOR body horror triggers in this here book FYI). But our main character’s preoccupation with the mathematical concept of zero and dividing by zero and this somehow challenging all worldly preconceptions of the fundamental laws that govern our realities and oh my the mathematics and philosophical goings-on was 100% too overdone.
In all, I could’ve maybe gotten on board with this house of surgical horrors, bypassing the silliness of the “arranged marriage” part and trying to skim over the unnecessary mathematical philosophy included, if not for the fact that Caitlin takes the reader on a fever dream of psychosis that she never really pulls out of. For me, it was too much, too long, too overdone sequences of psychotic break and spinning, spinning, spinning in randomness that never came down, explained, or concluded. I still don’t fully understand what I read in the last 50 pages, even haven read it twice.
It’s good and bloody, but my hunt for a new favourite gothic horror continues … and no, for those wondering, this is nothing like Rebecca.
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