Review: Jane by April Lindner

Image from Goodreads

Title: Jane
Author: April Lindner
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: 6 Oct 2011

Synopsis from Goodreads

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there’s a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane’s much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

REVIEW BY SYA – THE MOUNTAINS OF INSTEAD

When Jane Moore’s parents die suddenly, she finds herself abandoned by her siblings, penniless and with no choice but to drop out of university and find herself a job.  On joining a nanny agency she is quickly offered a job working for the infamous Nico Rathburn – a notorious rock star with a chequered past.  Somewhere in his hedonistic past, Nico has acquired a daughter and the now five-year-old Maddy becomes Jane’s charge.  On arriving at Thornfield Park, Nico’s country estate, Jane finds herself enclosed in a world that is totally alien to her and her somewhat prosaic sensibilities.  As she slowly bonds with Maddy and settles into her new life she finds herself fascinated by her mercurial new employer who appears to be taking a particular interest in her well-being.  And as well he might for Jane quickly becomes aware that life at Thornfield Park is not always as comfortable as she has been led to believe – something that seems entirely to do with the forbidden third floor and its mysterious turret.

Jane, in case you haven’t figured it out, is a re-imagining of Jane Eyre.  While at first re-imaginings might seem almost like a writerly cop-out – the story’s already been written – it is entirely clear to those who have read a few that they either work very well or, er, not at all.  Jane Eyre, with it’s complex and often unlikable characters and particularly gothic story line is not a classic which should lend itself to the modern day yet April Lindner has created a compelling, darkly romantic tale that is absolutely loyal to it’s latter day source material without ever compromising it’s entirely contemporary setting.

Jane herself is one of the more complex Bronte heroines.  In Jane Eyre she is a plain, sensible girl who is no stranger to tragedy.  One of the defining characteristics of the original Jane is that she was rather ahead of her time – supporting herself, standing up to her elders and betters and generally being very much her own woman, thank you very much.  However, in a modern setting the idea of any young woman being in awe enough of the upper classes that it is surprising and inspiring when she speaks her mind is less believable.  Cleverly, Lindner has replaced the idea of upper and lower class with the cult of celebrity and endows Jane Moore, her modern day protagonist, with little knowledge and even less respect for the life that Nico Rathburn lives.  For Jane, there is no hero-worship, just a somewhat flabbergasted disdain for a life that to her seems ridiculously overblown.  Like the original Jane, she’s is overwhelmingly practical and can come across as almost prissy at times and this, like in Jane Eyre, is what makes the slow change in feelings towards Nico so entirely charming, blowsy and romantic.  Jane isn’t experienced with men and, really, has led a sheltered life despite past tragedies and so she expresses the new feelings she is experiencing in words that entirely encapsulate the can’t-catch-your-breath feeling of first love.  Jane Moore is both her own character and also very much Jane Eyre.  It’s a triumph of characterisation.

Mr. Rathburn is an equally well written character also in keeping with his counterpart, Mr. Rochester.  His somewhat erratic personality suits his rock star back story and his attraction to Jane, and his reasons for this attraction, ring absolutely true.  Perhaps the only flaw in Nico is he lacks the entirely foreboding personality of Rochester when we first meet him – but this is a minor foible and doesn’t affect the enjoyability of the overall story.  Other characters come and go and fill out the story nicely with Maria, Diana and River St. John being particularly enjoyable to read.

The plot itself translates surprisingly well, although it requires a suspension of belief to truly swallow the mystery of the third floor in the 21st Century.  What Lindner achieves particularly well is the sense of creeping unease and the more sinister scenes from Jane Eyre are recreated loyally and engender the same shivers that the originals have done for years – the scene involving a wedding dress is as frightening as it has ever been.  April Lindner, in recreating Jane Eyre so well has, I hope, introduced the original to a new generation.  Her re-telling is both enjoyable and clever and certainly compelling enough to encourage those who read it to instantly seek out its inspiration.  Lindner is following up the success of Jane with Catherine, a new take on Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights is a story that’s often hard to love with characters who take selfish, obsessive love to new heights but if anyone can get underneath its somewhat hard shell it’s Lidner.  Certainly she is a writer to watch and Jane (and, of course, Jane Eyre) is absolutely recommended to fans of the classics and otherwise.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Stepping Out of the Page

    This sounds really interesting. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews and I think I’ll have to check this one out for myself some time. Thanks for reminding me! 🙂 Great review!

    Steph @ SteppingOutOfThePage.co.uk

    • Avatar

      Book Angel Emma

      It is awesome I read it as well. My review will be going up in January 😀

  2. Avatar

    Sya

    Thanks so much for having me, Emma, and for encouraging me to read Jane – I loved it. I’ve really enjoyed your Classics Carnival – great idea!

  3. Avatar

    Ive heard a lot of mixed things about this one and although it sounds like you enjoyed it I still think I am a little too put off to pick it up, thank you for sharing your thoughts though Sya!

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