Jane, by April Lindner
After a lonely, less-than-idyllic childhood—her older brother is borderline-sadistic, her golden girl older sister is self-absorbed, her father is mostly-absent, and her mother is completely disinterested in her quiet, studious younger daughter—Jane Moore is relieved to get to college.
But, after her parents are killed in a car accident and she's left penniless, she's forced to drop out of her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence and get a job. And finally, her serious nature works in her favor: because Discriminating Nannies, Inc. is looking for someone disinterested in celebrity gossip to place at Thornfield Park, the estate of rock legend Nico Rathburn.
Yes, yes. In case you haven't already guessed, this is a re-imagining of Jane Eyre. And while I feel that I've read a ton of Jane Eyre re-tellings this year (well, okay, at least three), in Lindner's defense, Jane came out in 2010, well before any of those others came out.
And, except for one plot element, I really, really liked it.
Jane is believable and likable, serious-but-secretly-passionate (so secretly that she herself doesn't even realize it), and Rathburn is extremely charismatic and almost immediately likable (well, if you're a fan of Rochester). While some of the plotting and characters are pulled almost directly from the original—the horrid Blanche Ingram becomes the horrid Bianca Ingram, etc.—there are enough changes to keep the story from feeling forced or old hat. Switching Pilot's name to Copilot was especially clever, I thought (especially because Lindner resisted the obvious temptation and didn't include any sort of 'dog is my copilot' line), and I hated River St. John far less than I hate St. John Rivers. (Then again, for me, it's a pretty low bar to hate someone less than St. John Rivers. Off the top of my head, the only character I hate more is Oliver Trask.) So it's an easy-going, enjoyable, somewhat swoony (Rathburn's make-Jane-fall-in-love-with-him-by-making-her-jealous is harder to forgive in the modern setting, but I let it go) book, if you can get past one thing:
IF YOU'RE A BAZILLIONAIRE, KEEPING YOUR INCONVENIENT WIFE LOCKED UP IN ONE LITTLE ROOM UP IN THE ATTIC IS COMPLETELY INEXCUSABLE.
I mean, criminy, at least give her a suite.
And the argument that there are no nice, non-abusive treatment facilities for folks with Bibi's (that would be the parallel Bertha) issues is just silly. That Rathburn would even attempt the bigamy is another huge stretch, and I didn't find it believable that with all of the gossipy interest in his rock star life, no one had realized that he'd never filed for divorce. I mean, hell. Gawker would be all over that.
BUT, REGARDLESS, I enjoyed this one entirely. Even the stuff that made me squawk. In a way, that stuff was almost even more fun than the rest: it made me feel like I was having a big, silly, exceptionally entertaining debate with another book person. Yeah, I'm a nerd.