Friday, 30 July 2010

Review: According to Jane - Marilyn Brant

Published: October 1st 2009, Kensington

Pages: 352 pages, paperback

Acquired: Sent for review by Curled Up with a Good Book (original post can be found here)

Summary (from Goodreads): It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett's teacher is assigning Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". From nowhere...more 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 has taken up residence in Ellie's mind, and seems determined to stay there.


Jane's wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, 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.

My review: Let me begin by saying I was really excited about reading According to Jane. It has a great premise and received some high praise - Susan Wiggs wrote that “Marilyn Brant’s debut novel is proof that Jane Austen never goes out of style.”

According to Jane is the story of unlucky-in-love Ellie, who has been unsuccessful in the dating game for far too long yet still dreams of finding her Mr. Darcy. When Ellie hears Jane Austen’s voice in her head the first time, she doubts her sanity, naturally. We discover that a couple of days later she’s quite ready to accept that a dead novelist is capable of speaking to her but, of course, only Ellie can hear her.

Jane guides Ellie through her teenage years and beyond, trying to give her advice on dating, love, men, and (awkwardly enough) sex. However, Ellie frequently ignores Jane’s warnings (‘Do whatever you must, Jane said, with hot fury in her voice, but get away from that despicable man.’), and that’s where the story really begins.

I did enjoy According to Jane, though I found the beginning chapters slow and a little tedious (there were only so many of Jane’s insults that I could stand before it all started to get a bit repetitive). It’s impossible not to warm to Ellie; she’s a great character - intelligent, gutsy and happy to risk everything in the pursuit of love. Her cousin, the perfect Angelique, is brilliant, and her ability to switch between French and English at the drop of a hat is one of the genuinely funny devices in the book.

Sam Blaine, the novel’s answer to Wickham, is deviously good-looking, charismatic, popular, and a total heartbreaker. After he torments Ellie (in both good and bad ways) throughout her years at high school, she resolves to forget everything about him. However, a few chance encounters ensure that, to whomever else her heart belongs to, a little bit of it will always belong to Sam.

My main issue with the novel is Jane’s presence, a gimmick that quickly grows tiring. According to Jane is a strong enough story that it could stand on its own without the need for Jane Austen’s character at all. Having her voice chime in every few lines with some ‘helpful’ advice seems unnecessary and adds nothing to the novel - if anything, it actually takes a bit of the charm away.

Maybe it’s because I’m English, but her voice just didn’t ring true to me. Brant is obviously a devoted Austen fan, I don’t doubt that, but I don’t think that Jane is particularly well written. Too many times she serves no purpose but to wail an antiquated insult that didn’t make me laugh in the way it was clearly meant to.

That said, According to Jane is an enjoyable light read with an ending that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, which can’t be a bad thing.

Read if you liked...: Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 13/20 (C)

5 comments:

  1. I think I'd like to read this. Can't say I've heard of this book before, but it sounds like a fun read :) Enjoyed reading your review tremendously, but then again, I always do :)

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  2. So far I've enjoyed these Austenesque type books and this one does sound interesting. I did enjoy Me & Mr. Darcy a lot!

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  3. Oh dear. I've been meaning to read this one for over a year. I have a copy on my shelf right now. Umm...yeah. It DOES sound cute. *sigh* I am so overwhelmed by my TBR right now!

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  4. I've wanted to read this as well. I read my first Jane Austen book earlier this year and have wanted to try one of the "spin off" ones. Great review.

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Thank you kindly for the comment, you sweet thing.