They say you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but we just can’t help ourselves. Book covers are works of art and they have the important responsibility of giving readers a glimpse of the story within. A good cover can convince a reader to pick up a book, which is why we’re excited to be sharing with you the intriguing cover for thriller author Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Eyre reimagining. Bookish readers are the first to get a glimpse of this new book, and Faye was kind enough to even tell us about what the mysterious symbols on the cover mean to the story. So, without further ado, check this bad girl out:
Bookish: This cover has a very different look and feel compared to your other books. Was that something you talked to the illustrator about?
Lyndsay Faye: To be honest, the designers at Putnam came up with this really brilliant notion of riffing off the Penguin Classic Edition covers they do for books by folks like Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. I had nothing to do with that stroke of genius! And because many of those authors strongly influenced Jane Steele, the direction they took made a lot of sense thematically.
I think it also must have been a factor that Jane Steele is my first standalone following the Timothy Wilde trilogy in years, so they wanted to convey that this is an entirely new narrative—heroic serial killer version of Jane Eyre is certainly a departure from my previous work!
Bookish: This cover blends harsh elements such as knives, daggers, and human hearts with gentler elements such as soft pinks and purples in the text and flowers winding around the edges. Do the contrasting elements reflect Jane herself or the plot?
LF: Great question. They actually reflect both, which is the brilliance of it. The anatomical hearts are there because this book is about murder, but also very strongly about what you would do for love—how far you would go, what choices you would make if you desperately cared for a friend or a family member or a lover. The blades are Sikh tulwars, and the two Sikh wars in the 1840s have an enormous influence on this book. Several of the main characters are Sikhs. The flowers and leaves add feminine elements. The bottles and cups could refer to poison, or do they refer to revelry? When you read the book, it all adds up marvelously.
Bookish: What made you want to write a reimagining of Jane Eyre?
LF: Well, I’ve loved that story ever since I read it when I was a kid. But I had also been binge watching Dexter and weirdly had this idea: What if another Jane had made different choices? What if some of the truly lousy people from Jane Eyre didn’t end up getting away with all the nonsense they pulled? Charlotte Brontë actually lived in that horrible school situation, for instance, and I thought it might be deeply satisfying to change some plot points. Helen Burns in Jane Eyre, for instance, dies just as Brontë’s sisters did. What a horrifying circumstance.
Often cruelty tries to shield itself within a mask of propriety, and I was especially inspired by the introduction to the second edition of Jane Eyre when Brontë wrote, “Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion.” I felt as though she was looking over my shoulder when I was writing this book, wryly smiling.
Bookish: What is it that you like most about Jane Eyre? What did you most want to change in your adaptation?
LF: I think what I like most about Jane Eyre is that it is completely, unabashedly about love at the same time it is also about self-respect. What I wanted to do wasn’t to change it exactly, but to write a book that probably wouldn’t have been published before the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many others like her. But bear in mind, I don’t endorse murdering people! It’s also a satire, so there’s that element.
Bookish: What do you think makes for a good book cover? And what are some of your favorite book covers?
LF: A good book cover makes choices that are unconventional and artistic while still being appealing. But this question is extra interesting because the code for historical fiction book covers is currently a guy wearing a cool top hat walking away, because The Alienist is a phenomenal book. Or a woman in historical costume looking wistful as she half-turns. How far can you get away from that and still get people to see it as a historical mystery?
I am a huge Haruki Murakami fan, so I adore his vinyl-looking cover for South of the Border. My favorite translation of Beowulf (and I learned Old English in college when I took an entire course on it) is by Seamus Heaney, so I adore the man entirely covered in chain mail. I’ll always be grateful to Amy Einhorn and her team of artists for the American cover we did for The Gods of Gotham. It’s endlessly pretty, at least to me. But I think Jane Steele is my favorite of my own book covers yet.
Lyndsay Faye is the author of four critically acclaimed books: Dust and Shadow; The Gods of Gotham, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel; Seven for a Secret; and The Fatal Flame. Faye, a true New Yorker in the sense she was born elsewhere, lives in New York City with her husband, Gabriel.