Let me begin by saying I was really excited about reading According to Jane. It has a great premise and received some high praise - Susan Wiggs wrote that ďMarilyn Brantís debut novel is proof that Jane Austen never goes out of style.Ē
According to Jane is the story of unlucky-in-love Ellie, who has been unsuccessful in the dating game for far too long yet still dreams of finding her Mr. Darcy. When Ellie hears Jane Austenís voice in her head the first time, she doubts her sanity, naturally. We discover that a couple of days later sheís quite ready to accept that a dead novelist is capable of speaking to her but, of course, only Ellie can hear her.
Jane guides Ellie through her teenage years and beyond, trying to give her advice on dating, love, men, and (awkwardly enough) sex. However, Ellie frequently ignores Janeís warnings (ĎDo whatever you must, Jane said, with hot fury in her voice, but get away from that despicable man.í), and thatís where the story really begins.
I did enjoy According to Jane, though I found the beginning chapters slow and a little tedious (there were only so many of Janeís insults that I could stand before it all started to get a bit repetitive). Itís impossible not to warm to Ellie; sheís a great character - intelligent, gutsy and happy to risk everything in the pursuit of love. Her cousin, the perfect Angelique, is brilliant, and her ability to switch between French and English at the drop of a hat is one of the genuinely funny devices in the book.
Sam Blaine, the novelís answer to Wickham, is deviously good-looking, charismatic, popular, and a total heartbreaker. After he torments Ellie (in both good and bad ways) throughout her years at high school, she resolves to forget everything about him. However, a few chance encounters ensure that, to whomever else her heart belongs to, a little bit of it will always belong to Sam.
My main issue with the novel is Janeís presence, a gimmick that quickly grows tiring. According to Jane is a strong enough story that it could stand on its own without the need for Jane Austenís character at all. Having her voice chime in every few lines with some Ďhelpfulí advice seems unnecessary and adds nothing to the novel - if anything, it actually takes a bit of the charm away.
Maybe itís because Iím English, but her voice just didnít ring true to me. Brant is obviously a devoted Austen fan, I donít doubt that, but I donít think that Jane is particularly well written. Too many times she serves no purpose but to wail an antiquated insult that didnít make me laugh in the way it was clearly meant to.
That said, According to Jane is an enjoyable light read with an ending that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, which canít be a bad thing.