Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review - "Jane'

Remakes, these days, are all the rage.  Whether it's Hollywood plumbing its back catalogue for the next big thing, or authors going to the classics to create new and weird combinations of vampires and werewolves and demons, the past is always coming back.  Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen in general have enjoyed a wealth of adaptations and re-imaginings, aimed at both adult and young adult audiences.  It was only a matter of time for the Bronte sisters got into the act.  It is into this atmosphere that April Lindner brings Jane, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre.

Jane Moore is by all accounts, a plain, hardworking, straightforward young woman of nineteen.  She is a student at Sarah Lawrence when her parents are killed in an accident, leaving Jane with little to no money, no way to pay her tuition, and very few options.  The practical Jane decides to get a job, and is placed by Discriminating Nannies, Inc. in the home of Nico Rathburn, a rock star poised on the edge of a comeback, with a colorful past and a young daughter.  Jane immediately takes to her new life at Thornfield Park.  She spends most of her time with her young charge, Maddy, and her free time with her watercolors.  That is, until the mysterious Mr. Rathburn returns home and turns Jane's life upside down.  From here the books follows a very basic outline of Charlotte Bronte's classic, with Jane becoming more and more involved in the life of her employer, and more and more drawn in to the mysteries of Thornfield Park.

I have to confess that I've never been the biggest Bronte family fan.  This is mainly due to my complete disregard for Wuthering Heights (two of the worst people ever do not inspire a great love story for me), and unfortunately Jane Eyre gets pulled down with the wreckage.  I need to go back and revisit the original work, and one of the best things I can say about Jane, is that it has inspired me to do so.  Lindner has done a very good job in recreating a character for a modern reader.  I rather admired Jane's sensibility, her "plainness" and her level head.  These admirable qualities could have made her a dull portrait, but I didn’t find her so.  She was layered enough and steady enough to be both exciting and reliable.  And quite frankly, when you’re opposite a character has unsteady and Rathburn, our Mr. Rochester.  Rathburn is occasionally gloomy and prone to anger, but Lindner has also given him a softer side, the side that loves his daughter and recognizes a welcome spirit in Jane from their first meeting.

My one real issue with Jane is the age difference between our romantic pairing.  In a modern context, young Jane with an older Rathburn comes off as a little creepy.  Jane is no innocent doe, but her youth gives Rathburn’s attention just the slightest air of impropriety.  “Forbidden romance” is the way the book promotion has put it, but to me it’s just a little off.  But this one little quibble aside, I quite enjoyed Jane.  It’s got romance and mystery and the blessing of one of the best novel structures ever.  Now if only ever Jane Eyre take off could be this good, I’d be a happy girl.

Book Trailer:

Jane by April Lindner
2010, Poppy
Library copy

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