A Modern Jane Eyre
I have to admit that I was biased toward the story Jane by April Lindner, even before I read it. Jane is a modern-day take on the classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, which happens to be my favorite book of all time. With my legs curled up beneath me and my grandmother’s old copy on my lap, as a young teenager I hid from my brother’s annoying antics and fell into Jane’s world of familial negligence, independent thinking, and romantic mystery. I had always been a reader, but after reading Jane Eyre I became hooked: I fell head over heels in love with books.
Now, whether I was biased for or against Jane before I read it is something I’m not even sure about. On the one hand,
I figured that nothing can be as good as the classic; yet on the other hand, I admire any author who dedicates an entire book in an attempt to bring the story into the present day. And that is exactly what Lindner attempts to do.
In the classic by Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre is a young orphan left to be raised by extended family, but finds only cruelty in their hands. Sent away to grow up in a boarding school, Jane Eyre eventually becomes a teacher there and then a governess for the future object of her desire, Mr. Rochester. In Lindner’s Jane, this early childhood is skipped (except for short flashbacks) and the story begins with Jane Moore just finishing her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College. Finding herself with no money to pay her tuition after an accident killed her parents six months earlier (and an abusive brother and selfish sister who despise her), Jane drops out of school to become a nanny for the famous Mr. Nico Rathburn.
Nico Rathburn is, in fact, a rock star. In this way, Lindner allows readers to get a glimpse at the immense social strata that separated Jane Eyre from Mr. Rochester in the classic. Even in this era when people marry who they choose, as readers we can grasp the unlikelihood of a 19-year-old college dropout marrying a celebrity like Mick Jagger (albeit younger, Rathburn is about 30). Celebrities really are America’saristocracy and Lindner’s choice is a good one.
As Jane goes to live at the Rathburn estate, we clearly understand that she is different from what we might consider a normal teenager: she doesn’t read gossip magazines; she is quiet and truthful; she suffered at the hands of her family yet doesn’t hold it against them. Her inability to be anything but herself is what attracts Rathburn as it does Mr. Rochester in the original. We recognize and understand Jane Moore’s amazement not only in her own blossoming love for Mr. Rathburn, but in his return of her affections.
Overcoming her disbelief of the situation, we cheer for Jane Moore (just as we cheered for Jane Eyre) when she becomes engaged to Mr. Rathburn. And of course, we feel consternation and sadness when we find out the secret Mr. Rathburn has been hiding. Overall, we get a clear sense of who Jane is and how her world expands – but doesn’t change her – through her romantic relationship. This unhindered impression of Janeness is one of the reasons why Jane Eyre is a classic; and Lindner does a very good job of trying to transfer the main character’s sense of self into the modern day.
I must disclose that for a Jane Eyre junkie like me, I could never say that Jane is better than Jane Eyre.The classic captures Jane’s growing love and betrayal with more heart, but it’s unfair to compare Bronte’s writing to Lindner’s (although
Lindner’s writing is quite expressive). But for others who may not carrythe same love that I have for Victorian literature, Lindner’s book allows readers to access and enjoy the famous love story of two people from separate worlds who manage to find and love each other – and that is always a good thing.
Blythe Robbins, a Californian living in New York City, is a geeky editor by day. At night, she can be found reading fiction or writing her blog: theonegoodthing.blogspot.com.