Lindner, April. Jane (2010).367 Pages. Poppy. $17.99
There are two distinct groups, it seems; the Jane-ites or the Bronte-ites. It is difficult to be a part of both groups, (but not impossible) because while Jane Austen wrote romances and social satire, the Brontes wrote melodramas, your classic Gothic novels, and people frequently like one or the other. I am more familiar with Jane Austen than Charlotte Bronte, and I’m sure it’s obvious why; I prefer light, fluffy romances to dark, brooding dramas. This is not always the case, however, and it is not unheard of for me to pick up a “serious” novel.
Because it is October 6th, and the book is not published until October 11th, you will have to click “more” to read the rest of the review. I will say that it was a very good book, and I had trouble putting it down long enough to go to work. If you like retold classics, then you will likely enjoy this Jane Eyre reinterpretation.
(There may be spoilers if you are unfamiliar with Jane Eyre, so proceed with caution.)
I suppose one more preface must be added to this review; I have not read Jane Eyre. Having not read the original work, and having only watched the movie, and then not very attentively, I am only familiar with the barest details of the plot. I know that Jane and Mr. Rochester love each other, and that he is dark, brooding aristocracy while she is an industrious governess from humble origins, and that even if he hadn’t had a crazy wife in the attic, he was still aristocracy, and she was not, so their love was doubly doomed. This does not entirely translate well to modern times.
Nineteen year-old Jane Moore has never felt love or acceptance from anyone. She was always the quiet, brainy girl who had passions that nobody else understood. Her family is downright abusive, grinding Jane down until she has no sense of self worth. Her only drive in life is her education; she escapes to college, where her parents dutifully pay her tuition, though they could not care less about her fate. When her parents die in an accident, Jane’s siblings inherit everything worth anything, and Jane is left without enough money to pay tuition at Sarah Lawrence.
Determined as ever, Jane applies for work at Discriminating Nannies, Inc., where she is informed that she just might have the right personality for a very special job. That special job is caring for the five year-old daughter of rock-star Nico Rathburn. Jane accepts the job, and soon finds herself in Connecticut, living at Thornfield Park. Her life soon falls into a routine; caring for Maddie, painting, reading, and getting to know the others at Thornfield.
The more she comes to know about the residents of the estate, the more she realizes there is a mystery. Who is Brenda, and why doesn’t she seem to be a normal housekeeper? Where does that mysterious laughter come from? Why is the third floor off limits?
I had a few issues with the plot, though I realize that most of them are related to plot points that made sense in the original, but which were hard to transplant to modern times. For example, Jane is a very smart, industrious girl. Why doesn’t it occur to her to get financial aid? She could still (plausibly) work at Thornfield Park for summer at least. Also, Mr. Rathburn is a generous employer, who pays extra for discreet staff. Where does Jane’s money go, considering that she has nearly no expenses while at Thornfield Park? She seems to be destitute remarkably fast. Despite the sheer length of this volume, the romance seems a little rushed. There are hints (I think?) of their emotions deepening, but they may be my imagination trying to explain everything away. And Nico is a bit too manipulative; he frequently seems like a dirty old man trying to sex up an innocent, rather than a man who is actually in love.
Despite being a reinterpretation of a classic, Jane manages to differentiate itself from Jane Eyre in more than just the setting. The story is changed just enough that you cannot quite be sure what is coming next. Jane herself is an interesting character; she’s independent, and practical above all else. She’s not given to romance, and is very controlled. Her practicality never leaves her, though she does learn a bit about herself and her own worth by the end of the book. This book gets a 4.5/5 for being very good, despite the flaws.