According to Jane by Marilyn Brant

Usually I’d be annoyed by someone casually calling our revered writer “Jane,” as though they were intimate friends, but this time, the writer is actually in our protagonist’s head, instructing her in ways of life and specifically requesting that she be called Jane, so . . . okay!

Jane enters Ellie’s head shortly after the heroine reads Pride and Prejudice for the first time in a class where she is harassed by a “sinfully cute but annoying-as-hell” male nemesis. Jane stays for 19 years (maybe more) and, when this story begins, our heroine is now 34 and simultaneously mocking Odysseus for having taken “two decades to understand a simple lesson” AND realizing that she is in no position to judge Homer’s hero, given her own learning curve. She has needed Jane, and though she doesn’t quite understand how or why, Jane has needed her.

This is not to say Ellie always heeds Jane’s advice. She still sometimes picks losers for boyfriends and has destructive family relationships, but Jane helps teach Ellie to be herself and to learn to listen to herself (and to Jane, whose voice of reason often sounds like what Ellie’s should be). Listening to Ellie is quite entertaining for the reader as much as it is edifying for Ellie. When addressing a steady boyfriend (with whom she has no real chemistry but with whom she stays anyway, telling herself that that is not what matters), she tells us she uses “a vocal timbre [she’d] honed working with teens—pleasant but not sparkling, kind but with an edge of firmness.” When contemplating her hopes for the future, she describes herself as a “thirty-four-year-old geek” who, “against [her] will and against [her] reason (although, okay, not against [her] character)” still wants “that fucking Cinderella story” for herself.

As she searches for it, Ellie has some adventures: a trip to Austen’s England with Jane in her head (though Jane ditches Ellie in Bath, which makes her homesick and triggers Ellie’s own longing for home), a new bond with an older sister (one can’t help but think Jane nurtured that one, thinking of her own Cassandra), and several relationships that are, apparently universal (the mid-20s one in which the physicality is so intense the partners persuade themselves they are soulmates, even despite all other evidence to the contrary; the high school guy that reappears at an awkward time; the blah one that somehow sticks around for three years, etc). As she matures, Ellie genuinely wishes happy endings on her past partners, hoping they’ll be redeemed, and deserve to be. In the meantime, with Jane on her brain, Ellie seems poised for a little redemption of her own.

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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