According to Jane by Marilyn Brant

May 2, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart.

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.

“An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there’s sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel.” —Cathy Lamb, author of Henry’s Sisters

“This is a must-read for Austen lovers as well as for all who believe in the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending.” —Holly Chamberlin, author of One Week In December

Marilyn Brant has been a classroom teacher, a library staff member, afreelance writer and a national book reviewer. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and son, surrounded by towers of books that often threaten to topple over and crush her. A proud member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Marilyn’s debut novel featuring “Jane” won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award. When not working on her next book, she enjoys traveling, listening to music and finding new desserts to taste test.

Liked:

  • I liked the way this novel was written. Brant has a breezy kind of style that makes for easy reading. Obviously this isn’t the novel to pick up if you want to tax your brain, but it’s great for a lazy weekend or a day at the beach.
  • Ellie was mostly likable. This was extremely important, as of course the entire story revolved around her life. She was annoying in places, but isn’t everyone? For the most part, I enjoyed her company and wanted to see how she would end up with Sam.
  • This book wasn’t too heavy on the Pride and Prejudice references. You don’t have to have read that book or memorized its passages in order to appreciate this one. I last read P&P in high school, but since I remembered who Wickham was, I knew enough to enjoy this novel.
  • Usually I don’t like subplots, but I have to admit that the stuff about Ellie’s sister served to round out the characters and the main storyline. I think it worked mainly because Brant included it in just the right dose. It wasn’t so minor as to be negligible, but neither did it overwhelm the main plot.
  • There was quite a bit of wit and humor throughout. I might not have laughed out loud, but I did smile many times, which added to my overall enjoyment.

Disliked:

  • I didn’t care much for the misdirection Brant employed in constantly referring to Sam as Ellie’s “Wickham”, when it was clear from the very beginning that he was her Darcy and they were going to end up together.
  • I’m not quite sure why it was necessary to have Jane Austen’s voice providing commentary inside Ellie’s head. WTF was that supposed to mean? Was she crazy or something? I didn’t get it. I didn’t like the so-called mysteries surrounding Jane’s would-be lover or descendants, either. As a reader, was I supposed to care about Jane’s life? To me, this was Ellie’s story, so nothing Jane said or did mattered much.

Rating:
According to Jane by Marilyn Brant isn’t a novel that will appeal to everyone, but I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. Maybe it’s because the story began during Ellie’s high school years, and allowed me to reminisce about my own big crush of that time, or maybe it’s because I appreciated this non-traditional approach to a romance novel. Either way, I give this one 3 stars out of 5, and recommend that you check it out!

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