“What’s down there?” she asked, eyelids heavy, voice thick.
“Nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all.”
I have been hyped for this one pretty much since the second I finished The Luminous Dead, which was one of my top reads of 2020. I adored Caitlin’s Yellow Jessamine novella, and her entry into the Walk Among Us anthology, so I just knew I was going to adore this novel. And I was right!
Rating: 5 stars!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: graphic surgical descriptions (1800s medical practices), body horror, gore, death, drug use, miscarriage.
About the book:
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.
What did I think?
I knew a lot about this book going into it, but somehow it still managed to surprise me at almost every turn. One thing that wasn’t a surprise was Caitlin Starling’s flawless prose. As always, I was blown away by the gorgeous writing itself. In all of her books, I don’t think Starling has ever wasted a word – everything builds together to create a beautiful and deep and usually horrifying world and THE DEATH OF JANE LAWRENCE is no different. If you like your horror steeped in gothic atmosphere and dangerous, gory magic, look no further.
The majority of this book is set in Lindridge Hall, the decaying family manor of Augustine Lawrence, Jane’s husband of convenience, and in true gothic fashion the manor feels like a character in its own right. It’s the perfect setting for the terrible, terrible things that Jane and Augustine go through, and i love the vivid descriptions that make it feel steeped in history and fear. It’s isolated, crumbling and atmospheric, and made me tense and anxious every time night fell and Jane was still in the Hall. I’ve read a lot of gothic horror and I am deeply impressed by the way that Starling built on the traditional characteristics of the genre to make the reader feel like they know exactly where it’s going, and then subverted all of those expectations. There’s a lot going on under the surface of this novel, and I would love to see more of this world.
Jane herself is, predictably, my absolute favourite part of this novel. A dedicated woman in a hellish situation of magic and madness? I love her. From the first chapter she stole my heart with her unusual and business-like approach to their marriage, and I adored seeing the way that she relates to the world. Jane is an accountant, focused on numbers and facts. She likes the tangible and has a strong sense of self and an almost stubborn grasp on the world around her. Which, obviously, makes her the perfect protagonist to stumble into her new husband’s messy past, full of secrets and magic. The way that she approaches magic is fascinating to me. I can’t go into it in too much detail without spoiling it, and I love the way it unravels far too much to risk that, but it’s a really interesting perspective and was a lot of fun to read as someone who habitually reads a lot of books about magic and craft.
The ending of this novel was honestly a mindfuck, in the best way possible. I stayed up far past my bedtime because I couldn’t put it down, and the first thing I did the next morning was reach for my kindle to finish it. It’s complicated and deliciously twisty and I know that the second I have a physical copy of this in my hands, I’m going to read it all over again because I have a feeling it’s going to be just as good the second time around.
Release Date: 19th October 2021