Monday, May 19, 2014
Review: Jane by April Lindner
Author: April Lindner
Rating: 3 Stars
When it comes to JANE, I find it difficult to summon much feeling for this modern re-telling of Jane Eyre.
You see, Jane Eyre is the novel that cemented my relationship with my mother. We'd always been close, but during those awkward, teenage years of Middle School, I slowly began to gravitate away from her opinion, discovering my own instead. Needless to say, our relationship was strained, but that all changed -- surprisingly -- when I picked up my mother's well-worn copy of Jane Eyre from the recesses of our dusty attic. Jane Eyre is my mother's absolute favorite novel. Not only can she quote from it seamlessly, but her passion for the story pours out, even from the pages of the copy she has carried with her from India. Thus, to read Jane Eyre at fourteen, carrying with it my memories of late-night book discussions with my mother, is to render it a novel close to my heart.
With JANE, April Lindner certainly writes a respectable re-telling. It sticks closely to the original tale, with Jane Moore taking up a position as a nanny in the house of former rockstar, Nico Rathburn, following her parents' tragic death. Jane Moore's childhood hasn't been any easier than Jane Eyre's, complete with a cruel mother and even crueler siblings. Even following her entrance into Nico Rathburn's life, Jane Moore's life is similar to that of Jane Eyre's. Whether it be her passion for painting, quiet demeanor, or straightforward aura which catches the eye of Nico Rathburn and draws them together into a tight friendship, Lindner refuses to gloss over or forget these details. The flashy Bianca Ingram, the startling fire, the mysterious third floor...it's all present in JANE, though with a modern twist, as befits a re-telling.
Yet, despite these stellar qualities, JANE lacks the true spirit of Bronte's Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre's story is tragic, difficult, and tough to swallow but Jane's constant strength of will drives both her -- and the reader -- forward through hardship. Jane Moore, on the other hand, bitterly reflects upon her past in flashbacks which did little but connect this tale back to the original. Jane Moore's recollections of her family lack the underlying current of strength that is present in Jane Eyre's experience with her family. While we read -- and struggled -- alongside Jane Eyre as she was sent from her home to boarding school and later left to fend on her own, with Jane Moore we are merely given glimpses into the difficult childhood she suffered and told she made it through. Even in her present-day relationships, Jane Moore fails to strike much of a cord. JANE certainly captures the bare-bones of Bronte's complex characterization, but without filling in that skeletal structure with muscle, tissue, and pumping blood, Jane Moore merely remains a character on the page where Jane Eyre could just as easily have been my sister.
Nevertheless, perhaps my largest roadblock with JANE arrived in the form of Nico Rathburn. Rathburn? When I was eight, I would voraciously watch Arthur, a fellow third-grader who often suffered under the ministrations of his no-nonsense and "evil" teacher, Mr. Ratburn. Unfortunately, every time Jane Moore addressed Nico as Mr. Rathburn, I thought of a rat. (Rest assured, I quickly grew accustomed to thinking of this sexy rockstar as a human, not a rodent, but...it was difficult.) Nico's name aside, I found myself unimpressed with his rockstar occupation. While it provides fertile ground upon which to build Edward Rochester's dark past, not to mention his current lifestyle in a modern-day setting, I found the charisma of Nico to dull the rougher edges of Mr. Rochester which I'd grown to love. JANE utterly impressed me by rendered Nico a flawed -- very much so -- hero, not to mention the fact that I couldn't help but lean in closer, falling in love with Nico and Jane's conversations, but Mr. Rochester is a whole other level of dark, brooding, and swoon than Nico Rathburn is, I'm afraid.
JANE is, I believe, I only modern-day adaptation of Jane Eyre I've stumbled across and, as such, it certainly plays homage to the original. I believe YA lovers of JANE will certainly pick up Bronte's masterpiece, which is an incredible feat to pull off. Lindner has cleverly woven in the historic details of Jane Eyre into the 21st Century and though aspects of her plot feel contrived, false to our dynasty, and the atmosphere she builds is far from the creeping gothic aroma behind Jane Eyre, I still flew through JANE, soaking up its every word. Granted, it's a poor substitute for the original, but every now and again even we lovers of classics need a break from the lengthy, wordy originals we stack on our shelves. And for those days, JANE is absolutely perfect.