by April Lindner
Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.
But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?
An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.
To be brief: If you've never read Jane Eyre, do yourself a favor and read that instead. If you have read it and enjoyed it... do yourself a favor and reread it instead.
Enough brevity! Back to my wordy, wordy ways.
Alright, so some people evidently read Jane and liked it-- even loved it. I don't understand why, but then again, people can be strange.
Okay, okay! It wasn't the worst thing I've ever read, but it was not remotely a good read, in my estimation. (This is the second JE modernization I've read. The other was The Flight of Gemma Hardy, which I also disliked. Maybe modernizations/adaptations aren't for me, though I did enjoy the movie Clueless...)
The premise-- Mr. Rochester as rock star-- never excited me, but the author's introduction gave me a little hope. She sounded like someone who treasured and understood Jane's story, so maybe she could make this retelling work. Sadly, where Jane Eyre soars, Jane could only limp along with a broken wing.
In her introduction, Lindner writes that "the book practically wrote itself" and "whenever I got stuck, I would open up Jane Eyre for inspiration and ideas"... Well, maybe if it had been a little harder to write (necessitating more reworking and reflection and, you know, effort), the result would've been stronger. As for going to the original for "inspiration and ideas"? Puh-lease! Most plot points are a direct copy from Jane Eyre-- with just a few tweaks to fit the modern setting-- and much of the dialogue is clearly lifted right off the pages of JE-- and again "modernized", which apparently translates to "dumbed down" and "coarsened".
I'll get into the nit-picking below, but the bottom line is that the book utterly failed to "enchant" me. However, if this was aimed at the "YA" (Young Adult) market, I guess I'm not part of the "new generation of readers" referenced in the blurb, so maybe that explains it.
Far from adding anything new or interesting to the story, this version traded strong characters and powerful romance for weak, bland, washed-out replacements.
Specifics (with SPOILERS):
Attn: SPOILERS for both Jane Eyre and Jane!
--I was really annoyed by Nico's totally unnecessary cursing.
--Nico's and Jane's exchanges are so dull-- especially when compared to the conversations between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I can sense the chemistry between the latter. Not so with Jane and Nico. Their attraction doesn't feel real. You are told that they're in love, but you don't feel it or see it for yourself.
--I don't think a single person ever drinks plain spring water-- let alone water from the tap-- in this book. It's always "mineral water" or "sparkling water". That isn't of the least importance to the story-- but I positively loathe the taste of mineral/sparkling water-- blech!-- so it's another reason to turn up my nose at the book as a whole. ;o)
--Why name Maddy's mother (the French "singing sensation") Celine? Every time she was mentioned, I thought of Celine Dion. I know she's Canadian, but still... Why not choose some other "French-sounding" name that isn't already associated with a "singing sensation"?
--Jane tells Nico that she can't swim. Nico is stunned. "'Nobody ever taught you to swim?' His eyes narrowed. 'That's criminal.'" Ha! Is it really that uncommon for someone to not know how to swim? Calling it "criminal" to fail to teach a person to swim seems like taking it maybe a little too far...
--The swimming suit discussion (no suit? are you a nun? -- some nuns swim -- if you're on a hilltop, do you spin around and sing that the hills are alive with the sound of music? -- hee hee, oh Nico, you remind me of Captain von Trapp *heart-shaped googly eyes*) is awk-ward! I blushed for the characters force-fed such cringe-worthy lines.
--Jane comes right out and asks Nico if he's been tested for STDs, after he regales her with tales of his scandalous past. That could never happen. Nope. No way. But it felt like the "responsible and/or modern and/or politically correct" thing to do-- and so it was done. That happens several times over the course of the book. Things that don't feel "right" for the story or the moment are shoehorned in anyway, because Oh-Em-Gee We Are So Modern Now.
--Nico has had a paternity test, which reveals that, "Mr. Rathburn, you are the father!" I get the feeling that the author is convinced that in Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester is the father of Adele, too, and was secretly thrilled to be able to do away with any shadow of a doubt of the child's parentage in this retelling.
--I've always enjoyed the house party section of Jane Eyre, but this book's version of it left me ice cold. How disappointing that Rochester's bizarre/brilliant dress-up-like-a-gypsy-fortune-teller scheme was reduced to a snooze-fest involving nothing more exciting than a pack of tarot cards!
--Jane's nuclear family doesn't feel real. They're just too awful. Yes, there are families out there that are even worse-- more abusive-- but these characters are such an odd mixture of normal and terrible. They feel like pure melodrama. In Jane Eyre, the awful family made a little more sense. The aunt (by marriage) resented her late husband's fondness for his niece, so she raised her children to look down on Jane and looked the other way when her son mistreated the girl. That's horrible, but it feels more likely than that an entire family would so blatantly single out one child/sibling for emotional neglect. I'm not saying it could never happen, but it must be a rare set of circumstances.
--The "declaration of love" scene (under the large tree) is hilariously bad. "Even as I was giving you shit and you were standing up to me in that quiet, stubborn way you have, I had this feeling about you..." Oh, swoon! Why didn't my own husband accuse me of giving him shit as a prelude to the first "I love you"? Some girls have all the luck!
--The lurve scene continues: "'But that's still not the same as wanting me because they know and understand me and like me even though I'm a flaming asshole,' he said. 'Jane, you get me. And I think I get you. Now can you f*****g well believe me?'" Now, that's what I call romance!
--And then. And then. ...And then Jane and Nico "do it". *giggle-snort* It's like so totally perfect and romantic and everything like you wouldn't believe! There's like this tumultuous, totes symbolic thunderstorm going on outside-- really romantic. I mean, the old Jane Eyre wouldn't have done that, but whatevs. Who gives a crap about that, right? This is MODERN Jane, and modern Jane is hot to trot, you guys. To sanctify the palpitating delight, we are carefully informed (the morning after) that Jane and Nico were "safe" (bien sûr). Nico keeps a stash of what he calls "standard rock-star equipment" (~barf gurgle~) in every room. (No, I'm serious. That's what it says. I'm looking at it right now.) 'Cause you never know when or where the urge to merge will completely overpower your better judgment or self-control, apparently. Rock stars are so gosh-darn cool.
--I guffawed at the thought of Mr. Rochester insisting that Jane Eyre get breast implants.
--Nico's reasons for keeping Bibi locked in the third floor of his home were extremely weak. As so many reviewers before me have noted, you can make the argument that Mr. Rochester's keeping Bertha Mason under lock and key at Thornfield Hall is an act of mercy. At the time, mental illness was poorly understood, and there were no reputable places Bertha could have gone and received professional, compassionate care.
In the modern world, with limitless resources at his fingertips, Nico could have found a better place for Bibi-- not only for her sake, but to protect the lives of everyone else living under his roof (including his daughter). Before her final escape, she had already proven herself several times to be dangerous and capable of slipping out from under the not-so-watchful eye of her drunken guard. It simply doesn't make sense.
...Well, maybe it makes sense from the perspective of wanting at all costs to keep this tragic scandal under wraps. Damage control.
--I'm sure we're supposed to be touched by the fact that Nico still loves Bibi and has been hoping that she might stay on her meds and re-emerge as the woman he fell in love with. ...Ok, fine... But I much prefer the Jane Eyre version where Bertha was already going insane before Rochester's scheming father and brother tricked him into marrying her for her fortune. He married Bertha before he truly knew her, and when he realized who/what she was, he was repulsed. He made a foolish, hasty decision that nearly wrecked his whole life, but at least his affections aren't divided between Jane and Bertha. He treats Bertha with a certain degree of kindness (rather than sending her off to languish in Ferndean's unhealthy atmosphere), but he's not kinda-sorta in love with her. Call me selfish, but if I were Jane, I wouldn't want to share a man with the memory of his (still-living, but now insane) first wife.
I mean, Nico even calls Bibi and Jane by the same pet name, "Angel". That is just creepy. No, thank you.
--The St. John family's disdain for the suburbs is so refreshing. "'Too smug,' Diana said. 'Too safe.'" Isn't that anti-suburb garbage passé, yet?
--"Diana was looking for some kind of work that was better paying and more satisfying than her waitressing job, but she'd been a philosophy major and couldn't quite decide what direction her life should take." *eyeroll*
--River St. John. Betcha can't guess which character he was in Jane Eyre! ;o) His own sister describes him as "socially helpless" and "kind of an idiot savant", and he definitely gives off a weird vibe. St. John Rivers, though kind of scary in his cold severity, never struck me as autistic, though, and I don't know what to make of River St. John. He gives me the creeps, to tell the truth. It's one thing to have strong religious convictions, but there's just something off about this character (imho). His "physical" moments with Jane give me the shivers-- and I don't mean the good kind! ;oP
--"...people dying of AIDS because drug companies like Davidson-Worth only care about profiting on the misfortunes of others." A bit judgmental, there, River. I'm pretty sure drug companies have to make money to keep running-- to pay their bills and attract investors-- to spend big bucks on experimental new drugs that might be even better, but oftentimes fail to pan out. It's not quite so cut and dried as all that, Mr. Self-Righteous.
--"Don't you know that the ultrarich are the enemy of everything you've been working for these past few months?" ...What? ...The wealthy are the outright enemies of the poor and the homeless? Hm. That's news to me.
--Jane Eyre is a tower of personal strength. She is subject to powerful emotions and passions, but she ultimately controls the impulses that would overwhelm her high principles. She refuses to give in to desires that would lower her in her own estimation (and in the eyes of God, because she's a deeply religious character). She is the epitome of the mentally, emotionally, spiritually, morally strong woman.
...By comparison, this modern Jane seems like a piece of dandelion fluff borne on the wind, going wherever the breeze takes her.
--The description of the Nico documentary was laughable and cringe-inducing. "If there was a Mount Rushmore of rock and roll, he'd be on it." ... "...plying his trademark red Stratocaster like a man possessed..."
--The police chief laments the fact that despite a tip (from a mentally ill woman) that Jane was working in a New Haven soup kitchen, they failed to locate her. "'Damn. And there you were the whole time. I imagine Nico will see to it that heads roll.' 'Don't worry,' I told him. 'I'll see to it they don't.' I may have sounded more confident than I was, but Chief Pettigrew looked relieved."
...First, Jane's an adult. She was perfectly within her rights to disappear from Nico's radar without permission. Second, why should it be in Nico's power to send heads rolling because they failed to find Jane and deliver her to him? Third, UGH, Jane is so obnoxious! And of course the chief is incredibly relieved to have Rock-Star Love-Slave Queen Jane speaking on his behalf! Whew! Thank goodness she's agreed to calm him down and save the world from the Wrath of Nico!
--Nico's wounds, compared to Mr. Rochester's, are negligible. At first you may feel a slight twinge of "Oh, but he needs his hands to play guitar! He's an artist! It's how he expresses himself!" Any pity of that sort is promptly smacked down by the news that if Mr. Lazybones would apply himself to his physical therapy, he can recover some (if not most) of his range of motion. The only other souvenir of his fiery heroics is a small scar on his forehead, mostly hidden by his hair. ...Yeah, cry me a river, Nico.
--In Jane Eyre, while Jane is away from Rochester, she discovers that a long-lost uncle has bequeathed her a fortune. (No, it's not the most likely occurrence, but what is likely about the novel?) When she returns to him, she does so as a woman of means. The disparity between the two characters is (somewhat) reduced. She's not vastly wealthy, like Rochester, but she's comfortably off, and she doesn't need his financial support, from a practical point of view. She goes back to him as a free, independent woman. Also, she is fully able-bodied, while he is now struggling to adapt to life with near-blindness and the loss of one hand. In some ways, their roles have been reversed. Meanwhile, Modern Jane comes back to Nico with... just a job. She's started saving up to go back to college and someone has apparently filled her in on the existence of Pell Grants, but that's not quite on the same level as Jane Eyre's inheritance... Then there are Nico's injuries from the fire, which have been toned down significantly from what Rochester suffered. Not much of a role reversal...
--Ah, the poetry of Nico's conversation when he's finally reunited with his One True Love (now that his old lady's officially kicked the bucket): "For f***'s sake! Am I losing my mind now, too?" ... "This can't be real. ... This has to be an acid flashback."
--Jane tells Nico: "Something just snapped. I realized what an idiot I'd been, running away from the one person I value more than anyone else in the whole world." ...O-kay, then. So basically a huge chunk of the book was for nothing. Great. You learned nothing. You didn't leave Nico to remove yourself from temptation. Preserving your values-- your self-respect? Meh. You could care less about stuff like that. You're such an endless joy, Modern Jane!
--There's an odd scene right at the end where Nico convinces a scaredy-cat Jane to look down over the edge of the top of the building for... some reason. Just to check out the view, I guess. I harbored a brief, wild fantasy that they'd trip and go flying over the edge-- but it was not to be.
--So is Nico basically just a fantasy version of Bruce Springsteen, then? (And in that case, I think we all know who Jane's actually based on, given that she bears no legitimate resemblance to Jane Eyre...)