According to Jane
by Marilyn Brant
Publisher: Second Edition: Twelfth Night
Publisher:Reviewer’s edition: Kensington
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic
Pub Date: 10.1.09| 269 pages
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
Book was purchased by reviewer. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive fiction debut, one modern woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart: Jane Austen.
It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost takes up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.
Over the next two decades, Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the frustrations of adolescence and into adulthood, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go—sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.
Still, everyone has something to learn about love—perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending…
ACCORDING TO JANE ~ A Novel About Pride, Prejudice & the Pursuit of the Perfect Guy
**Note: This book has adult language and content and is recommended for mature audiences.** http://www.twelfthnightpublishing.com/womens-fiction/
I took my sweet old time getting to this story of a young woman coming into her own after years of romantic fails and lessons always circling back to the boy, then man, who was her nemesis in school and then crushed her heart their senior year. Along for the ride was the ghostly voice of one famous Regency Era author, Jane Austen, whispering advice in the heroine’s mind.
The author’s writing was engaging and had all the feels making this an introspective chick lit that fit the spring reading mood I was in when I picked it up. It was writing in split timeline going back and forth between the present years following high school and the past high school experiences that gave insight into the present circumstance
The story spanned high school in the 80’s through her early thirties for Ellie Barnett who grew up in a working class home in the Chicago suburbs. Ellie is the middle child and suffers from middle child syndrome as far as she can tell with her older bold and brash, beautiful sister two years ahead and calling her nerd while making her school and home life miserable and a younger brother who has his own talents and popularity and also sees Ellie as the quiet, geeky recluse while her parents love her, but pay attention to her siblings antics since Ellie is the good girl who makes it easy on them.
In truth, Ellie, tells in this first person narrative, admits she is the nerd who buries herself in her studies, doesn’t involve herself in anything else and has few friends. She lives for literature and wants to be a librarian. She’s comfortable in her niche even while resenting others for seemingly having it easy because they are more social.
The author allows the reader to see things through Ellie’s eyes even while making it obvious that younger Ellie and even adult Ellie isn’t that good at reading other people or seeing herself very well. Ellie knows she’s smart, but puts herself down and retreats from any efforts to put herself out there. She constantly settles when it comes to men thinking this is the best that she can do. It takes her years to see her sister well and have a relationship with her and the same goes for herself and Sam Blaine, the high school crush and heart-breaker who keeps returning to her life and milestone moments. She doesn’t see it, but his arrival always brings a little epiphany that puts her closer to getting on the right path.
Ellie isn’t much different from many people who take a long time to figure stuff out. She has to do it wrong a few times to finally wake up and realize that she had the key to getting it right all along if she can get over her hangups and get perspective. She is the Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh gang and though she’ll never be the Tigger, I was glad when she takes on a more hopeful perspective rather than fatalistic one in the end.
As for part of Ellie’s issues, she has a ghostly voice in her head that arrived in her sophomore year of high school. Jane Austen is with her in spirit and speaking to her. It took me the longest time to work out if this was Ellie herself with a make believe ‘friend’ or a visitation from a spirit. I’ll leave that a mystery for other readers. Suffice to say, Ellie was getting the benefit of advice and observations on high-school and adulthood from a woman who was from 200 years in the past and a whole different social context. The author didn’t give Jane Austen some special dispensation in grasping the modern society so it resulted in cracking me up several times at the reaction things produced in Jane. It was also obvious to the reader, but not necessarily to Ellie, that Jane was wise, but not infallible. To be honest, I skimmed a lot of Ellie and Jane’s mental dialogue because it distracted me more than advanced the story many times.
All in all, it was moderately engaging and I can recommend it to Chick Lit fans who enjoy being along while a woman figures out her love life with a ghostly companion in tow.