Monday, December 12, 2011

Jane by April Lindner

As a longtime fan of Charlotte Brontë’s coming-of-age classic Jane Eyre, I was intrigued at the prospect of a modernized version geared towards young adults. Aptly entitled Jane, April Lindner’s enjoyable update on the Gothic Victorian drama retells the class-defying love story to an entertaining degree, and succeeds where it counts, despite lacking the quality and psychological realism of the original.

While the original Jane Eyre worked as a governess for the ward of the mysterious Edward Rochester, Jane Moore takes a job as a nanny of the young daughter of famed rock star Nico Rathburn, a recovering addict and former womanizer seeking redemption through his music. Before long, Jane finds herself attracted to her brooding, charismatic employer, and their courtship is soon threatened by Nico's dangerous secret. Jane soon finds herself torn between her love for Nico and her own sense of morality, and must ask herself whether standing by her principles means giving up on love.

The characterization of Jane remains faithful for the most part to Brontë's original heroine. Coming from an abusive, dysfunctional home life, she is emotionally reserved and quietly dignified; hard-working, studious and artistic; yet her rapport with Nico reveals a deeply passionate side of her nature. Nico Rathburn, like his predecessor, retains the qualities of a Byronic hero: temperamental, emotionally conflicted, self-destructive and struggling with his own integrity. One thing he possesses that Mr. Rochester lacked is sex appeal, which should attract him to the novel's teenage audience.

The deeper themes and nuances of Brontë's original are lacking in Jane, such as gender politics and Jane’s struggles with religious faith. Yet some themes are still present, such as the dichotomy of passion and reason, and the limitations on human rapport enforced by social class. While Jane Eyre was an outspoken woman who clashed with the societal norms of the patriarchal, class-driven 19th century, Jane Moore is a hard-working college girl who clashes with Nico’s rich lifestyle, and the uninhibited world of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Some fans of the original may balk at this premise; others may embrace the renewal of a beloved classic. In any case, I consider Jane to be worth reading, if only to see how well April Lindner has pulled it off. I say she did it pretty well, and the result is a fun, romantic and satisfying read.

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