Saturday, October 2, 2010


Lindner, April. Jane: A Modern Romantic Retelling of Jane Eyre. New York: Poppy - Little, Brown and Company. 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

After the death of her parents, Jane finds herself running out of options. With no money to pay for school and no home to go to when the dorms close, she applies for work at a nanny agency. Jane's never been overly social or interested in pop culture, facts that made her a bit of a loner at Sarah Lawrence, but they make her the perfect candidate for a nanny position in the home of world-famous rock star Nico Rathburn. After reading through internet archives of tabloid stories about Nico Rathburn's sordid life so far, she expects to have to babysit through a constant drunken party. Instead she finds life at Thornfield Park to be calm and her charge's life to be almost normal. And Nico Rathburn isn't the playboy she expect either.

In the review of a book like this, a modern romantic retelling of a classic, you might expect a bit of commentary about how the retelling relates or compares to the classic. There are plenty of reviews of Jane out there already that do that, so I'm not going to. Also, I've never read Jane Eyre, which would make the comparison a little difficult. More importantly, I've never had any desire to read the original, and yet Jane was one of the new books I most eagerly awaited this fall. Because, really, who hasn't had a daydream (or two) about a chance meeting with a rockstar/actor/hot guy in French class where you fall in love and live happily ever after in a mansion?

Well, Jane Moore apparently never had that daydream. She's very serious and very artistic at the same time. I bet her doodles never involved practicing her Mrs. Nico Rathburn signature (or any other future signature, for that matter) in middle school. That's why when she gets to Thornfield Park and finally meets Mr. Rathburn (who looks just like Russel Brand in my head), the guy all the guys want to be and all the girls want to date, she's completely blindsided by the feelings she develops for him. From the very beginning, Mr. Rathburn takes Jane seriously and values her opinion, not only because she's basically raising his daughter Maddy, but because he sees intelligence and value in her. The problem is that with their real big age difference (which I would have loved to see addressed or at least acknowledged at some point) and his role as Jane's employer, she's never sure if he's interested in her as Miss Jane, Maddy's nanny, or in Jane, all on her own.

What follows is a book's worth of "does he like like me?" introspection and touching moments that will generate enough butterflies in your belly to last a lifetime. It's practically a fairytale in its perfection...

And because the real plot of the story starts so far into the book, this might be considered a bit spoilery. Proceed at your own risk:
...until you realize that you're reaching the happy ending only about 2/3 of the way through. With happily ever after right within their grasp, the world comes crashing down around Jane, Maddy and Mr. Rathburn. If you're familiar with Jane Eyre, this mini-apocalypse probably won't be all that shocking, but I was completely thrown for a loop, as was Jane. And she runs from it. Jane, on her own and without a plan, gets to pull herself up by her bootstraps and figure out what she really wants in life for the first time since her parents' death. As much as I loved the lovey-dovey parts of the book that led up to this, Jane on her own was the best part. It finally gives her time to mourn the loss of her family, both her natal family and the family she had been building with Mr. Rathburn. She becomes more than the mousy youngest sister, the proper nanny, the "Plain Jane" that managed to snag Nico Rathburn's heart. I definitely liked her more as a character for her growth and found all that happens after much more believable. I get why all Jane's growth had to happen so far into the book, plot-wise, but I wish Jane had been a more realized person from the beginning. I don't think it's a problem with the characterization or the writing; I think it's just that Jane was kind of coasting on auto-pilot up to that point, or as auto-pilot as one can be when dropping out of college to be a nanny.
Done with the spoilers.

In short, this is the story of a great romance. It combines all those timeless, delicious feelings of a first love with the glamor of the rich and famous and the realities of how real life can intrude on both.

Jane comes out on October 11th! But it looks like it's already available for purchase on amazon.

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher


anachronist said...

As I read "Jane Eyre" I didn't hesitate to wade through the spoiler section and no, I wouldn't be surprised by the mini-apocalypse of any kind. Nice story and nice idea - thanks for your review!

Lawral the Librarian said...

anachronist - in the author's note, Lindner talks about how one of the hardest things to update was the "mini-apocalypse," and i think it's done really well!

anachronist said...

Great to know that - it makes me really curious!