By Caitlin Starling
She had her proof, now, that magic was real. All that was left was to make it cohere.
**Warning: gore, blood, overall bizarreness**
I am kicking off 2022 with a gothic horror. In October The Death of Jane Lawrence was recommended to me by a fellow book lover on twitter. I loved the cover so much I wanted a hard copy. I waited and waited and waited, until finally I got it 50% off during Barnes and Noble’s 50% hardcover sale in December. It was worth the wait.
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, Caitlin 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.
The Death of Jane Lawrence was my first read of 2022. I do not think I could have picked a better one. Starling crafted a story that is a fantastic gothic perfection. I had hopes from the first few pages that the story would take a turn to insanity, but I had no idea what I was in for.
Jane proposes a deal of marriage to Dr. Augustine Lawrence. After some pressuring, he accepts. There are some conditions, 1) Jane may never stay the night at Augustine’s family estate, 2) no intentions of love, 3) this is a businesses agreement. Jane and Augustine both have their quirks, but I was shipping their strange arrangement from page one.
Most marriages, arranged or not, are begun knowing next to nothing about your spouse.
There is so much I loved about this book. The the first chapter or two Augustine has Jane help him during a strange surgery, odd but I didn’t think much of it. Who couldn’t fall in love while arm deep in a groaning man’s guts? After a few limited interactions, they agree to marry. Jane’s helping hand in surgery was just the beginning of their eccentric romance. As time passes, bumps in the night morph into ghost in the hallway, which would soon begin fracture reality.
I could not put this book down. Starling leads the reader down a tight rope of crazy. Teetering into what could be a sweet budding romance before dipping into emotional instability of Augustine. Right as you start to feel sorry for Augustine, the truth bubbles to the surface. Which leads Jane questions her husband, the possibility of magic, death…..and what may lay beyond.
I had to reread pages, pause, reflect, and question what the hell was happening. I— loved—it. I have not read a book this engaging since The Haunting of Hill House, which is one of my favorite books. I was left question my own understanding of Jane’s experiences, even after finishing The Death of Jane Lawrence.
‘Cocaine?’ She asked, drawing up close enough to see the label. ‘It will steady me.’ He regarded her evenly.
‘I lied to you,’ he said at last. ‘I summoned the dead…’
The Death of Jane Lawrence is the first book I have read by Caitlin Starling, but it is my last.
Should you read The Death of Jane Lawrence?
The Death of Jane Lawernece is not for everyone. The second half of the book is a wild ride, chapter zero through me for a loop. I loved it. If you like gothic reads with a twist of fantasy you need to read The Death of Jane Lawrence. IF you like stories with a clear plot, stories that are grounded in reality, and lack gore, do not read this book. 🙂
If you have read The Death of Jane Lawrence, then you need to read Mexican Gothic next! Another gothic horror with an interesting twist.