01 September 2011


After Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte is one of my favorite writers.

Making Jane Eyre one of my favorite books.  Therefore, April Lindner's book Jane caught my eye. 

And then the author's note made me buy it.  She talked about modernizing Jane, making the story relevant by updating the various story elements to work in a modern setting.

Much of the updating works - Rochester is now the rock star Nico Rathburn (the modern equivalent of England's nineteenth-century flush-in-the-pocket landed gentry).  Jane is no longer the unwanted poor cousin but the underappreciated, misunderstood youngest child who just wants to be an artist (as opposed to a society wife or spoiled brat - John Reed needs almost no updating to fit into the 21st century) with almost no funds when her neglectful parents leave her only worthless stocks as her inheritance (the brother gets the house).  The conversion from governess to au pair is almost seamless as is the transition of Blanche Ingram - gold-digging socialite - to celebrity photographer (don't worry - most of the names change to more modern/better versions; she doesn't make anyone sport old-fashioned names like Fitzwilliam - I'm looking at you, Pride and Prejudice updates).  Lindner also gives Jane and Nico a physical relationship - a surprising but, oddly enough, not an unwelcome addition.

However, at a critical junction Lindner keeps a major plot twist from Jane Eyre and I'm going to do bit of spoiling.

So, if you don't want spoiling - for either book - stop now (although, honestly, if you've read Jane Eyre there's really nothing surprising in Jane).

Nico has a crazy wife in the attic.  That he keeps locked up there with an alcoholic caretaker who gets wasted on occasion.  And then the crazy wife is able to escape the attic and do very Bertha Antoinetta Mason Rochester-like things - like tear up Jane's wedding veil and set the house on fire.  AND THEN NO ONE COMMENTS THAT IT WAS TOTALLY ILLEGAL TO KEEP HIS OBVIOUSLY SCHIZOID WIFE IN THE ATTIC AND HE SHOULD BE ARRESTED FOR KIDNAPPING AND DEPENDENT ADULT ABUSE.  And then the Jane Eyre plot picks back up and ticks right along (conveniently avoiding the Dickens-like twist making the Rivers family long-lost cousins) to the end.  Thankfully, she avoids "Reader, I married him."

Seriously, WTF??  He is rich as sin and, even if he feels like it's his fault that the wife developed schizophrenia due to drug abuse, he could STILL divorce her and set up a trust to make sure she was well-cared for at a very private clinic, as opposed to an attic with a drunk (at least I think the caretaker had a problem...maybe I'm confused and the crazy lady was slipping the caretaker her drugs to knock her out...ANYWHO it wouldn't happen in a real mental health institution).  Because she is nuts enough to be committed for life by a court order.  This isn't the nineteenth-century where lunatic asylums were terrible, hellish places.  The decision to keep this plot twist pretty much ruined the book for me at this point particularly because the author had made such a point in her essay about modernizing.  If she hadn't said anything I probably wouldn't have minded so much (I would still have noticed, but I probably wouldn't have been so put out).

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