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Jane by April Lindner

I have had my eye on this book ever since I saw Chelle feature it over at Tempting Persephone a few months back. As you know, I am a sucker of the largest order for a good retelling. Retold fairy tales in particular are a weakness of mine, but when I saw that April Lindner's upcoming novel Jane was, in fact, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, I didn't know my heart could beat quite that fast. I got my masters in literature, specifically Victorian lit, and Jane Eyre has been a special favorite of mine ever since I first read it on a cross country road trip when I was 14. As I am also a huge fan of historical fiction and YA, I think we can safely say I am sitting just about dead center in this novel's target audience. But it should also be noted that quite a bit of that quickening heartbeat can be chalked up to this breathtaking cover. I want to marry this cover. I think it perfectly conveys what you are getting with this package--from the misty moors landscape feel, to the girl in the timeless outfit that could be either Victorian or present day, to the bold pink lettering of the title. It's a modern Jane Eyre. It's got some excellently updated twists. It is at once faithful and fresh. In other words--it's the real deal.

Jane Moore walks up the stone steps of Discriminating Nannies, Inc. with several desperate hopes in her heart. Having just completed her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence, she is forced to drop out and search for work as a nanny when her parents are killed in a car crash and her indifferent siblings make off with what inheritance there is, leaving Jane to give up her education and scramble to support herself as best she can. An art major with only a few child development classes under her belt to qualify her for the job, she feels certain the agency won't deign to look twice at her short resume, but will send her packing in short order. It turns out, however, that she does have one rare and highly sought after qualification. Shy and somewhat taciturn by nature, she does not bother to keep up with popular culture. And, as such, she just might be the perfect nanny for one of the agency's high profile clients. Nico Rathburn, an enormously famous rock star who is trying to mount a comeback tour, has recently found himself in need of a nanny to look after his five-year-old daughter Maddy. And, just like that, Jane is off to Mr. Rathburn's Connecticut mansion Thornfield Park. With a single suitcase containing all her meager belongings, she approaches her new position with some hope but much more trepidation, wondering if she'll be up to the task of being in such close proximity to the rock star's infamously wild lifestyle and temperament in addition to taking care of his little girl. But Thornfield Park turns out to be not at all what she expected. And neither does Nico Rathburn.

Reader, I loved this book so much I can't stop thinking about it. I had such a gut feeling about Jane from the first time I heard about it and it really is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world when your first uninformed impressions of a book come true. It was honestly difficult putting this one down at night and then getting through the next day all the way until reading time once more. I kept eying it, sitting there in my purse. I finished it somewhere in the vicinity of 2 AM a couple of nights ago, with an enormous grin on my face and no one to talk to about it. You see, this is an incredibly faithful retelling. I was actually caught off guard at how closely it sticks to the original tale. What made it even more astonishing, however, was how April Lindner managed to keep so much from the original story and make it her own at the same time. It exists in the marvelous space, where the old and the new meet and wonderful things happen. Nothing about it felt odd or disjointed. This Jane is definitely a descendant of the original. She is just as independent, just as practical and plainspoken and consistent. And Ms. Lindner delicately brought out her vulnerable side, born of such a solitary upbringing, and my heart went out to her. I loved her and worried about her. I wanted to protect her from what I knew was coming. But the thing is? She didn't need me. She was fully up to the task of her story and I was free to sit back, mesmerized, and enjoy the whole thing unfold. A favorite passage from one of Jane's few remembrances of her childhood (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
On one of my days off, cold rain kept me in my room until late afternoon when the sun finally broke through. I pulled on my rainboots, grabbed my raincoat and my tackle box full of art supplies, and hurried out the door. It felt so good to be outside that for once I didn't stop at the high iron fence surrounding Thornfield Park. The guard on duty was a young, open-faced man with long blond hair. He waved me through the gate, smiling, and looked for a moment as though he wanted to speak to me. I considered stopping to introduce myself, but the very thought brought a flush to my cheeks. I looked down at my feet, letting my hair fall forward to curtain my face, and kept hurrying on.

"Smile at the other children," I remember my mother telling me at the little playground near our house. "Don't cling to me. Go over to the monkey bars and say hello."

I followed her instructions and walked over to the monkey bars. I even tried to say hello to the laughing girls hanging upside down from the topmost bars, but they were so happy and familiar with each other, their long hair sweeping from side to side like banners, that I felt the words die in my mouth. I stood frozen a long time until, still laughing and chattering, the girls unfurled down to the ground and ran off to the swings.

My mother's anxiety about my social skills grew more acute the older I got. "By the time she was your age, Jenna had three boys fighting over her," she would say. "Why don't you ever go on dates?" Usually I would brush the question off and retreat to my room, but once I made the mistake of answering.

"I'm not as pretty as Jenna," I said, as though it needed saying.

"If you smiled you'd be more approachable." She put a hand on my arm. "Isn't there a boy you like?"

There was: Michael, a popular boy with creamy skin, roses in his cheeks, and dark brown eyes, a basketball player. I'd liked him since fourth grade. Unlike the other popular boys, he wasn't unkind to girls like me. Once in junior high when the bell rang, I left my pencil case on my desk, and he ran after me, shouting my name.

"You forgot this." He pressed the case into my hands. "It's nice. You wouldn't want to lose it." He was gone before I could thank him. But he knew my name. And he had cared enough to run after me. The next time I saw him, I wanted to speak to him but hadn't dared to.

"Well?" asked my mother. "There's no boy you like?"

I couldn't bring myself to utter his name, to break the magic spell of secrecy and expose my crush to the ordinary light of day. "Not really."

My mother withdrew her hand. "You're a cold fish," she said.

Tears rose to my eyes. I knew there was no use pleading my case, and before I could think of anything more to say, she turned and walked away. "I'm not," I whispered to the empty room.
I love that whisper sent out into the void. She is not. And her spirit will not be dimmed by rough treatment on the part of people who ought to love her. And--while we're on the subject of love. Jane features a splendid one. I have noted that, despite my love for the original book, I often have trouble with May-December romances, in which there is a large age gap between the two principal characters. But I was immediately and fully behind Jane and Nico. Nico is . . . well, Nico is hot. Yeah. You're going to love Nico. The rock star angle works exceedingly well and definitely adds a sexier tone to the novel as a whole. His history is nothing if not cringe-worthy and it is in turns painful and hilarious watching these two beings from different worlds interact. Their relationship is handled so simply and naturally that it somehow becomes its own entity, both echoing and extending the relationship that inspired it. I fell in love with them on their own merits, if you will. At times, my pulse raced for them. This book has the potential to be an excellent crossover novel as these two are old souls and their romance reflects that, enhanced as it is by the modern setting. Happily, the writing matches the characterization. Assured and smooth, I felt shored up by the words. How many books have you read where you already knew exactly what was going to happen, and yet they still held you spellbound? Because that's exactly what happened to me here. As with the best retellings, Jane will leave you utterly satisfied, and with a strong desire to pull out that old copy of Jane Eyre and settle in for a nice, long visit with old friends. 
Jane is due out October 11th. 

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Comments

  1. Oh! Oh oh OH! I have been desiring this book since I first heard about it, and keep on hearing only better and better things about it. I'm thrilled you liked it so much (even though I don't think I liked the original as much as you do). It's good to see that this book just might deliver. I think I might have to go preorder it soon!

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  2. Oooh-I can't wait to read this one. Thanks for the wonderful review, I'm adding this one to my wish list now.

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  3. I didn't love Jane Eyre as much as you did and I also have a problem with May-December couples (Yesterday I finished reading "those old shades" by Georgette Heyer, excellent book but...) yet I love a subtle story where characters with different personalities & backgrounds fall in love, so I might consider reading this

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  4. I've been lusting after this book and have heard some great things about it so far. I didn't think I could want it more, though! Lovely review :)

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  5. I'm so anxious for this book but a little part of me was nervous that it would just flop--but I'm happy that little part of me is 100% wrong! Wonderful review. :)

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  6. I am SO glad it lived up to your hopes! Now I feel more confident that I, too, will love this book.

    <3

    Cheers,
    Kaz

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  7. Excellent review! And if I wanted it before - which I did - it was nothing compared to how much I'm anticipating it now. Looks like I know what I'll be doing on October 11th.

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  8. This one has been on my TBR list for awhile...thanks for the motivation to put it a little higher up on that list. :)

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  9. Your review leaves me breathless! Your love for this book and its original Jane Eyre really shines - and it makes me want to find a book that makes ME just as happy :)

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  10. Must read...... Can't wait.

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  11. Oh my. Angie! I need this book now!

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  12. Anonymous1:55 PM

    What a wonderful review! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's on my buy list, but I think I'll put a star next to it now. When I first read about it, I loved the idea that Nico is a rock star. I wasn't sure if it would work and I'm so happy that you say it does.

    I loved Jane Eyre when I read it in high school and I've been meaning to buy a nice hardcover edition of it for a reread, but always end up settling for a rewatch of the 2006 (I think) Masterpiece Theatre film with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson (Have you seen it? I think it's the best portrayal of Jane and Rochester, though Toby is probably more handsome than Charlotte imagined Rochester.)

    KarenS

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  13. This book sounds like it would rock my socks! I haven't really payed much attention to it before now, but it's definitely on my radar! Great review, I'm glad you liked it so much!

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  14. I cannot tell you how happy I am to hear that this book is so good. Seriously. Your review makes me want to dance around, cause this is a book I am going to go crazy for. I just know it! Thanks

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  15. This is great. I will definitely pick this one up now. :)

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  16. Great review, Angie.
    I've got this one on my list! :)

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  17. Wow, now I'm DYING to read this one!

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  18. Hey, I'm doing a book giveaway on my blog and thought you might be interested! But hurry, today is the last day to get your name in the hat!

    http://amandarosetew.blogspot.com/

    Great Blog!

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  19. I have a confession to make. I've never read Jane Eyre. :( Now I'm really curious about it and I'm thinking of reading it just because I want to read Jane as well.

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  20. Lovely review as always :) and my goodness Cachic, I thought I was the only other person not to have read Jane Eyre LOL looks like we have more books to add to our TBR pile

    I too love retellings, sometimes they're scary though because they can go so right and other times so wrong. But it makes me all warm inside that this one was good, it's in fact one of my sisters favorites (Jane Eyre) so I don't know why it's taken me so long to read it. Thanks for the review!

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  21. Steph, definitely pre-order soon! I actually finished it thinking there's a good chance that even those who didn't like JANE EYRE will fall for this one. I'm so interested to see if that's the case.

    Tara, my pleasure!

    Emily, yeah. I hear where you're coming from. So often they just give me the squicks. Ugh. But not so here. These two worked for me and I think there's a good chance they might for you as well. They're such dynamic characters.

    Jacqueline, *grin* happy to heighten the suspense!

    pirate, oh, I know what you mean. I went in a little nervous it would flop spectacularly. I was stoked it did the opposite.

    Kaz, I was thinking of you the whole time I was reading. I can't wait to hear your opinion, being an aficionado on all things Bronte. :)

    Chelle, yep. As do I. I'll be running right out to buy my own copy. The ARC only has the title and no image. I can't wait to own that pretty, pretty cover.

    Raspberry, you bet. I love spreading the word on the deserving ones.

    epic rat, what a lovely compliment to pay a reviewer. I hope you find the same thing, either with this one or another just your style.

    Liz, hehe. Yes. You will need to read this one.

    Holly, I can't wait to hear what you think. You're up next!

    Karen, star it up. Star. It. Up. I felt the same anxiety about Nico the rock star. It could be awesome and it could be disastrous. I am still so happy it was awesome. I fell for the guy. Maybe not everyone will. But I did.

    And I've been meaning to buy a cool, new copy of JANE EYRE as well since my old high school copy has seen better days. I love that new trade paperback they released with the silhouette of a woman on it.

    I saw the Toby Stephens version a few months back and really enjoyed it. I think this one is particularly hard to get just right in adaptations. I love some things about each one and others don't hit the right note. But I guess that's the way of adaptations. I like Toby. :)

    Lurker, thanks! I am, too. Hope it (and Nico) rocks your socks.

    Michelle, that's exactly the feeling it inspired me the whole time I was reading it. That and pure contentment.

    Samantha, it is great. Great is what it is.

    Christine, awesome.

    Janssen, yes. You are going to need to pick this one up for sure.

    Chachic, lol. No judging here. Like I said, I'm fascinated to hear what people who've never read JANE EYRE think of it. But it would be awesome to read them fairly close together as well. A friend of mine stopped in tonight to borrow my copy of JANE EYRE to read first before this one.

    Kika, see above. ;) You're not alone. And you could certainly enjoy this one without reading JANE EYRE first. Though it might ruin a couple of surprises. But that's true either way since it's a faithful retelling.

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  22. erm wow. that is all.

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  23. I must say I never cared for Jane Eyre, but you have made me want to read this. Also the cover is just gorgeous!

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  24. Sounds like one I'd love!

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  25. Jane Eyre is my best friend's favorite book in the entire world...and also the one book recommended by her I haven't read (I know, I know...) But I told her about your review, and now she's head-over-heels excited for this book. Thanks so much for the review, she's ecstatic! I think it's going to be a Bday present...

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  26. Carla, yeah. YEAH.

    Alexa, isn't it? I can't wait to get my own copy so I can admire it in person.

    Suey, yes, I am thinking it will work for you nicely. :)

    Lizzy, oh, I am so glad! Thank you for sharing that. I'm all excited for her to read it now as well. Happy Birthday to her and happy reading to you both!

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  27. I've never read Jane Eyre. Would I need to read it before reading this modern version, or will this modern version be easier for me to understand before I undertake the original?

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  28. Rebecca, no, I don't think you need to have read it to enjoy or understand this one. It can stand on its own, though it might make you want to go and read the original immediately afterward. :)

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  29. Welp, it's official: I'm totally lusting after this book now. I saw a write-up on it a few months ago and added it to my wishlist, but my desire has now been stoked into a phenomenal flame! Love Jane Eyre and love the passage you shared. Thanks!

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  30. Meg, hehehe. It's utterly lustworthy IMO. You're most welcome. Hope you love it when it comes your way.

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  31. You know I want to read this one. I'm hoping that I can fit it in now! Actually, it's a good thing that it's not out yet.

    Thanks for the excellent review!

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  32. I can't wait to read this book! It's been a few years since I read Jane Eyre, but it's definitely stuck with me. Jane sounds awesome!

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  33. Becky, you're gonna love it. I just know it. *bounces*

    Melanie, sounds like you'll eat this one up then.

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  34. Jealousy oozes thorugh every poor of my body. Every since @LizB came to DC for ALA and we chatted about this book over dinner I've been wanting to get my grubby hands on a copy! Thankfully, @catagator is taking pity on my and sending me her copy to read ASAP, lol. I can't wait to read it and will instantly drop whatever I'm in the middle of (which I never do) to do so.

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