Saturday 5 January 2013

#CBR5 Book 2. "Jane" by April Lindner

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 3 stars

What if Jane Eyre was a young college girl forced to drop out after her parents' death, and take a position as a nanny to make ends meet, and save up enough money to finish her degree? What if Mr. Rochester was a world famous rock star with a tempestuous past working towards a comeback?

Spoiler warning! If you haven't read Jane Eyre, a novel that is more than 160 years old by now, this review will contain some spoilers, and you should probably skip it. However, you should also go find a copy of Jane Eyre and read it, because it's great.

Still here? Ok, then. Jane Moore is an art student at Sarah Lawrence, but can't afford to pay tuition after her parents die, leaving her almost destitute. She takes a position as a nanny at Thornfield Park, taking care of rock legend Nico Rathburn's daughter from an ill-advised and brief relationship with a French starlet.

Nico Rathburn seems demanding, gruff and arrogant at first, but is clearly pleased with Jane's efforts to take care of and nurture his daughter. Working towards the release of his new album and a subsequent world tour, Rathburn isn't even around that much at first. As he spends more time at Thornfield Park, however, Jane can't help but grow closer to him, even as he seems to be wooing the glamorous celebrity photographer Bianca Ingram to be his new wife. And what are all the strange noises coming from the restricted area on the third floor? Why is no one allowed up there? What exactly is Nico hiding from the world?

April Lindner is a professor of English at a University in Philadelphia, and says that Jane Eyre is her favourite novel, that she teaches at any opportunity given to her. So it's not a surprise that this is a very faithful adaptation of the classic novel. While there's not as much time spent dwelling on Jane's absolutely awful childhood, the modern take on Jane still had a pretty rotten upbringing, with self-centred parents more concerned about her older siblings. She's an art student, shy, introverted, plain (not as obsessed with her appearance as the original, God I want to shake that girl for all her whining about how unremarkable-looking she is).

Mr. Rochester has become Nicholas Rathburn, former bad boy rocker with all manner of womanising, alcohol and drug abuse and partying in his past. Now clean and sober, he's launching his comeback album and planning a massive tour with his band. Blanch Ingram is instead a sexy fashion photographer, and the mad wife in the attic is his deeply unstable, schizophrenic first wife who he refuses to have institutionalised.

Lindner clearly knows the novel so well that I'm pretty sure that if I could be bothered to go to the shelf and find my copy of Jane Eyre, I would find that the plot for each chapter is pretty much faithfully recreated, just updated to a modern setting. It's actually very well done, and I won't deny having been engaged by the story and swept along by the drama on occasion. I read the book in two days, so it's not like it was boring or a lot of hard work. I'm just not entirely sure why the adaptation needed to be made. Still, there were no zombies or ninjas or sea monsters or vampires, it's just a very accurate modern take on the novel for a young adult audience (although those faint of heart should know that there are some smexy times, if not very graphic - get ready to clutch your pearls). As someone who's very ready for that fad to be over now, I guess I should be grateful. I will also confess to being curious about the author's next novel, which is a modern take on Wuthering Heights. Maybe she can make me hate that book a bit less by modernising it?

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