Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Roundup

Jane by April Linder
In this modern retelling of the classic (and one of my favorite books of all time) Jane Eyre, plain Jane Moore has to drop out of school and become a nanny for rockstar Nico Rathburn’s daughter, Maddy.  To be clear, I never would have picked up this book had it not been a retelling- the plot on it’s own doesn’t appeal to me and although I have reservations about retellings, I can (and do) appreciate how the author manipulates and expands the story to suite their purposes (if you haven’t read another retelling of Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, I recommend it for its unique take on the story and beautiful language).  All that being said, Jane still didn’t work for me.  It’s a very quick and fun read, but that’s where the positives end. The writing was often unpolished and awkward; for example, every time Jane has a drink of water (it’s quite often!) she realizes how thirsty she was and the metaphors for sex are painful (“[I] let him unmake me into a thousand glittering pieces” [244]).  Worse, though, was the fact that Jane Eyre and Rochester’s relationship just didn’t translate well to Jane Moore and Nico Rathburn’s. It is difficult to pick up on Jane’s feelings for Nico unless you know the original and then they go from confessing their love, to having sex, to attempting to get married in a span of twenty-four hours. This is the twenty first century! She’s a well educated Sarah Lawrence girl, who’s never had a boyfriend. Her financial prospects might not be bright, but she was working towards a better future through hard work and effort- and then she sleeps with her significantly older employer and plans on getting married at age nineteen! The modern retelling aims to be realistic, and this had red flags all over the place for me. Normally my reviews aren’t so long, or so harsh, but I was quite disappointed with this cheesy book.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
When I picked up this book knowing that it was about a modern teen and a teen during the French Revolution, I expected traditional alternating chapters from each character’s point of view. I was so wrong. This is the first young adult book I’ve read in a while that felt like it had substance. Don’t get me wrong- I love YA, and I know a lot of YA novels deal with important issues well, but Revolution was much heavier and denser (literally- it’s nearly 500 big pages- and figuratively) than most novels that deal less successfully with the same subject of grief. Not only does Donnelly edgily explore modern day Brooklyn teen Andi’s depression after the death of her brother, but she also weaves together the musical history of a 18th century composer and the story of Alex, a teen during the French Revolution determined to help Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s ill-fated son, the dauphin. Donnelly’s novel might be a tad too ambitious as the novel is really long and the multiple storylines a little difficult to follow, but the message and conclusion of the novel- through all the revolutions that take place- are incredibly satisfying.  A recommended read.  (Historical Fiction Challenge Book #1)

Her Fearful Symmetry  by Audrey Niffenegger
I was so excited about this novel. It’s by the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife (a MUST read) and takes place in London/Highgate Cemetery, an area that I love. This novel, though, didn’t work for me. It’s very episodic, to the point that I felt like I was missing major character developments and I would flip back thinking that the pages had stuck together. I just didn’t understand why the characters acted the way they did and the promised “romance that transgresses all natural barriers” (quote on the back of the book by Ron Charles, The Washington Post) was not romantic or compelling at all.  Without giving too much away, you barely see the two as a couple during the entire story! I sobbed after reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. I was vaguely curious reading this novel.  The twist at the end helps redeem Her Fearful Symmetry, but not enough for me to recommend anyone read this book.

Manuscripts: 5


  1. Revolution was wonderful. I usually prefer historical fiction that stays in one time period, none of this time travel/time slip stuff, but I was sucked in to Andi's story. It worked for me.

  2. I totally agree...Revolution pulls off what a lot of other novels can't. Glad you enjoyed it!