Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: According to Jane

Summary: 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… -- Kensington

Ever since I signed up to participate in the Everything Austen Challenge, I have been reading a lot of Austen-related books - I'm actually almost done with this challenge! My intent when I signed up was that I'd read one or two of the "real" Jane Austen books like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and PERSUASION; however, I have found that I really enjoy reading the modern day Austen-themed books. The latest one that I read is ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant.

Since I had already read four of these light (almost chick-litish) type books, I was beginning to worry that I might find them a bit redundant. I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed ACCORDING TO JANE, and I thought the premise was fresh and interesting. In ACCORDING TO JANE, the narrator Ellie is, of course, a huge Jane Austen fan; however, what makes this book different is that Ellie can actually hear Jane Austen's voice inside her head. Starting when Ellie was in high school, she and Jane had conversations about her life; and she was even fortunate enough (or maybe not) to have Jane's constant advice on her love life. I just loved premise of this book!

I find that when I read romance/chick lit books, I need to really like the characters. I thought Ms. Brant did a great job of developing Ellie's character; and even though I didn't always agree with her, I still really liked her. While I was lucky enough to meet my husband when I was 19 and didn't experience many of the dating woes that Ellie did (thank goodness!), I found that I could relate to the high school Ellie a great deal. I thought the author captured the essence of a teenage girl's insecurities perfectly!

One thing that I really appreciated about ACCORDING TO JANE was how the author told the story with flashbacks. I enjoyed seeing Ellie's prior experiences because it better helped me to understand her present day behavior. I also loved all of the 1980s cultural references, and I found myself laughing a lot at these sections of the book. The descriptions of the music and clothes were just too funny -- sometimes I can't believe that I was a product of the 1980s.

While there were some very funny parts to this book, I also found myself touched by some of Ellie's story. Probably the most heartwarming part of the story was the ending where Ellie (hopefully) finds some happiness -- it's kind of left up in the air for the reader to interpret! But I also found the side story of Ellie and her sister to be interesting. So often, sisters don't really have that much in common and it takes until they are adults to find some common ground. I liked how the author delved into Ellie and her sister's relationship, and I actually thought parts of it were very honest and real.

ACCORDING TO JANE is Marilyn Brant's first novel, and I just have to say that it's a fantastic debut. It has already been awarded the Winner of the 2007 Golden Heart Award for "Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements." I really enjoyed her writing style and especially the humor that she infused into the story. I am looking forward to her next novel FRIDAYS AT NINE which will be available October 2010.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I'm not sure that my first impression of ACCORDING TO JANE would be to pick it as a book club selection. However, I have to admit that the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would make a pretty good discussion book. Of course, it depends on your members, but if you are looking for a light, entertaining book that still has some discussion -worthy topics, then ACCORDING TO JANE might fit the bill. There is a reading guide available on-line as well as in the back of the book. Some of the themes covered in the questions include dating, relationships, sisterhood, expectations, and growing up. When I look over the discussion questions, I think there is actually a great deal to talk about!

If you enjoy Jane Austen books or even cute romance stories, then I suggest taking a look at ACCORDING TO JANE! Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.


Melanie said...

Sounds like a cute book. I'm half way thorugh my Austen challenge. I might need to read something more contemporary that what I have been reading. Have to see if I can find myself a copy of this.

Amused said...

Sounds great! I love Austen themed books and I haven't heard of this one. Thanks for the great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm glad you liked it - I have this one in my TBR pile as well!

nomadreader said...

I read an interview with author on Jess Riley's blog, and I added it to my list. My library doesn't have it, so I'm hoping to get it for Christmas. I'm glad to hear another positive opinion!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds so good. I love books with great characters! My sister and I fought like cats and dogs until we were teens so I think I could relate to that part too.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

That sounds really good I will be adding it to my ever growing list!

S. Krishna said...

I really want to read this one! I'm glad it's not redundant with all the other Austen chick lit out there.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I didn't read your review too closely because I have this book coming up in my TBR pile. I'm glad to know you enjoyed it, though!

Jenny Girl said...

I've onle seen a few revies for this one and they have been mixed. Your review seems to explain this book best. I'll be adding this to my list.
Good review Julie.

And congrats on progressing on your Austen Challenge. I am woefully behind. cest la vie!

Amy said...

Great review. I have this on my list and hope to read it soon.