Book review: Jane by April Lindner (Poppy, 2010)
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 revelation 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?
An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.
I got this book almost as soon as it was available, but it took me until very recently to actually read it. As I was trying to write my own modern take on Jane Eyre, I didn’t want to be influenced by someone else with essentially the same idea. Well, ten days into NaNoWriMo and I was stuck for ideas and just felt as if I was paraphrasing Charlotte Brontë in a slightly more modern setting. Who has house parties nowadays anyway? So I put the project on the shelf and eventually started reading April Lindner’s book instead.
Most of the bits I’ve read about it online have been positive. A lot of people really like this book, and it’s not without reason. The blurb from the left sleeve of the book (above) tells most of the story. Of course, based on Jane Eyre, we know the modern day Rochester is going to have skeletons in the closet – or rather, a mad wife in the attic – and that modern day Jane is going to be very hurt by this, so no real surprise there. By the way, I’m writing this assuming you, dear Reader, is fully familiar with Jane Eyre and what happens, so nothing in this review will truly spoil the story for you. After all, Jane is very faithful to the original.
While the story has moved to the US, Jane Moore is a nanny and Nico Rathburn is a rock star, all the little bits around this have changed and are still very recognisable. (Several characters even have their first or last names intact.) Jane Eyre is a timeless story, so why shouldn’t it translate very well? Having Rochester as a rock star made some elements come together beautifully: the house party is instead the band rehearsing, gold digger Blanche (here: Bianca) Ingram is a famous photographer of the stars, and so on.
Several scenes from the original are included – to my delight, this includes the “and a little depressed” scene – and the dialogue is recognisable too, if adapted and modernised. There is no gipsy woman, but instead, a partner of one of the band members is good at reading Tarot cards. Here, I applaud April Lindner. She actually seems to know what she’s talking about, which (sadly) most people who include Tarot cards in their books or films don’t. (The Gift even went as far as having Cate Blanchett tell the future using Zener cards, which is just about as ridiculous as telling people’s fortunes in Happy Families cards.)
Another thing April Lindner has done very well is the Morton part of the book. The St John siblings are never her cousins, but they become very good friends. River St John is just as creepy as St John Rivers and he doesn’t want Jane to learn Hindustani and become a missionary in India with him, but rather study French and take her to Haiti to help rebuilding the country after the earthquake. And so on. It’s perfectly adapted to modern day!
The characters are also very similar, although perhaps not 100% their predecessors. Nico Rathburn is definitely Nico Rathburn and not Edward Fairfax Rochester. There are similarities between the two, certainly, but they’re not identical. Which I suppose is just as well, as they are two different novels.
One thing that is a distinct difference is the attitude of the times. Pre-marital sex isn’t a problem nowadays, so Lindner lets her protagonists jump into bed before there’s even been a proposal. Speaking of which, the second proposal made me smile and think “you go, girl!” at the author. What a great update of “Reader, I married him”!
As a version of Jane Eyre, this is very enjoyable. Very well-written and very satisfying from the perspective of someone who loves the original. This is an excellent tribute, and just a shame it doesn’t come with a soundtrack! The only negative is the way the pages have been cut – they’re all uneven on the longer side, as if they’ve not gone through the cutting machine properly, and it makes it tricky to turn pages, as I often got two pages at a time instead of just one. But who really cares when you’re engrossed in a great story?
5 out of 5 guitar solos.