Title: According to Jane
Author: Marilyn Brant
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.
For a story that covered around two decades, According to Jane managed to sustain my interest, even in parts where it somehow dragged. It was fascinating to watch Ellie grow up to become the adult that she is now.
I haven’t read any of Jane Austen’s novels, nor do I know her entire life story. I just know she’s one of the most beloved writers and that her work is highly regarded as classic. The closest I’ve gotten to know more about her was when the movie Becoming Jane, which starred Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy, was on HBO.
I guess that’s what made this interesting. We may not be sure how accurate the portrayed intelligence and emotions were, but being given an idea of Austen’s insights on love and life will make any reader want to look up her novels and read them. I can say this for sure, because I, for one, bought a compilation of her work.
Jane Austen, as the title implied, was more than just a course being taken up in class, but an actual secondary character. She was Ellie’s best friend, adviser, voice of reason, and ultimately, her inner self.
Now, on to the main character. Ellie. She was pretty much the average teenage girl who grew up to be a normal yet simple adult, with a little more than a few bumps to go through.
As much as I loved Jane Austen, I can’t say I feel the same for Ellie. Very much an adult, but her maturity didn’t seem to match that. I knew she wanted to finally find the love of her life and settle down, but besides that, she didn’t seem to want anything else.
Maybe the story did just focus on the love aspect of her life, but very few clues indicated if she wanted a thriving career. She didn’t seem to aim for success. She was satisfied with the way things were in her life.
Ellie was more determined to work on her lovelife instead. It got annoying when she kept saying she’s trying to move forward, only to look back on her past, more often than she should. Halfway through the book, although I already had an idea who she was going to end up with, I knew how the story will end. She’ll get her happily-ever-after. And even if she hinted on giving up on her quest for love, I knew it wasn’t true.
Ellie’s character bordered on the desperate side. Here is her thought on why she would go on another blind date if she thought it would do any good:
- Because the fringes of desperation danced through my bloodstream every time I met a new man or even spotted one walking down the sidewalk.
- Because I’d look into his eyes as we passed each other and ask myself, “Is that My Guy? Could he be The One?”
- Because I was so worried True Love would never happen for me that I was willing to expend huge amounts of energy trying to maneuver a compatible match into place.
- Because I knew the clock was ticking on finding someone, and soon all the good ones would be taken.
- Because I was twenty-six and so lonely. Still.
But my optimism, which I used to think had been my birthright, had faded, or at least gone into deep hiding. And that was my biggest lie to my cousin: The inherent implication that the happily-ever-after thing was really possible.
Truth was, except for an occasional spasm of something resembling hope, I’d stopped believing.
Two minor characters in the story piqued my interest, Di, Ellie’s sister, and Angelique, their cousin. Two different women, with different opinions on love, who both mean the world to Ellie. Read on about their contradicting views on love.
Angelique's advice to Ellie, after Ellie confided about Sam's engagement:
“Your soul mate could not be genuinely happy without you,” Angelique had said when I’d first called her about it. “If Sam has moved on, after everything you’ve told me about your relationship, then he was never really your man. You deserve someone whose eyes light up when he sees you across the room. Someone who’ll rub your shoulders when they’re aching just because he wants to relieve your pain. Someone whose heart never stops beating for you. And that man is out there for you, Ellie,” she assured me. “It’s worth taking your time to find him.”
Di's contradictory belief:
“True love sucks,” she’d said one day, “and there’s no such thing as soul mates, no matter what Hollywood or Angelique says. It’s all work and building trust and fighting for commitment, day after day after day. And both people need to want to make it happen. Bad. Otherwise, f*ck it.”
According to Jane by Marilyn Brant is more of a romance novel than a contemporary, chick-lit fiction. Several references to Jane Austen literature definitely worked, but for a reader who doesn’t know the author or haven’t watched Pride and Prejudice, it may be hard to appreciate this. I also won’t recommend this for young readers, as the sex scenes were explicitly described.
I enjoyed the story but it lacked certain intensity to at least make an impact. I’m giving it 3 out of 5.
Okay: Liked, but The Goddess demands more!