Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jane, Unlimited

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Jane, Unlimted is one of the most unique books of the year. It's also one of my favorites.



There are many concepts or themes (I don't want to say tropes, but I suppose you could if you wish) that automatically make me want to read a certain book. I love when a book celebrates the literature that has come before; this is why the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde hold a special place in my heart. Finding winky nods and Easter eggs referring to authors long dead or classics well-read make my heart grow ten sizes. It just delights me. I didn't know that would be a component of Jane, Unlimited when I wheedled an ARC out of our children's librarian, but once I started reading and seeing all of the parallels, I felt a frisson of pure joy.

Saying that I can't write a very thorough review of this may seem like a cop-out, but if I went in-depth, I'd spoil the fun of the entire novel. Here are the basic facts:

Jane isn't quite sure what to do now that her Aunt Magnolia is dead--frozen on the icy tundra wastes of Antarctica. Certainly, being a celebrated nature photographer meant that Aunt Magnolia had to take some risks ... but Jane never expected to lose her. She's a college dropout at nineteen and struggling to pay her rent when someone from her past appears and changes her life. Kiran Thrash, Jane's former tutor, sweeps past her at a bookshop and impulsively invites her to Tu Reviens, the Thrash family mansion on an island in the Hamptons. With no prospects, Jane accepts. Well, there's the lack of money issue, and then there's that odd promise that Aunt Magnolia extracted from her niece: if ever invited to Tu Reviens, go. So Jane goes.

Kiran and Jane make the final leg of the journey to Tu Reviens in a boat manned by Patrick, a boy that Kiran grew up with and for whom she obviously has feelings. But Kiran is a sharp, moody woman, all prickles and thorns and dangerous edges, although she's been nothing but kind to Jane. Her twin brother Ravi is the opposite. He is fluid passion. Ravi doesn't care who you are--he will love you, or at least try to seduce you. Boys, girls, it doesn't matter. Tu Reviens is maintained by Mr. and Mrs. Vanders. He is quiet and submissive in contrast to his hot-tempered but mysterious wife. Ravi and Kiran's father keeps odd hours and is rarely seen, and their stepmother Charlotte has gone missing. There's Phillip's sister Ivy, who takes photographs of the artwork on the walls and instantly befriends Jane. Rounding out the family is Jasper, the basset hound, who is easily my favorite character in the novel. I was astounded by how well Cashore writes animals.

Oh, and there's also Captain Polepants. He's a polar bear rug.

Very soon after her arrival at Tu Reviens, Jane faces a crossroads of choices. There's the mystery of the disappearing biologists and their children to investigate. She could try to figure out what happened to the first Mrs Thrash ... so very many choices. What if she lived them all?

I will be extremely disappointed if reviewers and bloggers reject this book because "it's not like Graceling." No, it's not. Because it's not Graceling. It's a different book, marvelous in its complexity and utterly unlike anything I've read this year. Jane, Unlimited doesn't feel like a traditional YA novel. The characters are all a bit older, and while there is a romance, it's slightly sneaky and not in the least dramatic. This has definite crossover appeal. The writing is sure and confident, and the literary allusions many. As I mentioned, this is one thing that tickled me pink, so I have to tell you about the non-spoilery references. It will make me feel better.

Tu Reviens is very much a character in its own right, like Manderley of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca (and if the Vanders seem familiar ... they are). It's a house with secrets and possibilities. Even the name can be read in different ways, depending on how you say it. Tu reviens could mean "You come back," a statement of fact); "Will you come back," if asked with a question mark and rising intonation; or "You will come back," a command. Whatever happened to the first Mrs. Thrash, and what's going on in the attic? Linking the attic and the new wife is Charlotte, a reference to Charlotte Brontë of Jane Eyre fame. And while our main character Jane could be that Jane, she also bears a striking resemblance to Catherine Moreland from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Like Catherine, Jane is invited to a rich acquaintance's house where there is a mystery and where her life will change forever. Jane is, however, not obsessed with Gothic novels, and her aunt is dead, unlike Catherine's, who is unfortunately (sorry) alive. There's a lot more, I promise, but I can't tell you about them. You'll have to read the book and find the references for yourself.

Give Jane a chance and open yourself to infinite possibilities.

P.S. I didn't even mention the umbrellas, but now I would like a handmade umbrella, please.

2 comments:

  1. Um, I think you mean Catherine Morland. Catherine Earnshaw is the heroine of Wuthering Heights...

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    1. Good heavens! You are correct! All of my Brontes and Austens are getting all mixed up. o_O

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