by Marilyn Brant
Review by Kwana Jackson
WWJD? No, I’m not talking about Him here (no bumper stickers), I’m talking about Jane. Jane Austen to be exact. In the debut novel by Marilyn Brant, the author attempts to answer the question: ‘What Would Jane Do?’ for one Mid-Western woman who’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.
Ok, full disclosure here for the FTC and just to get myself into practice for December. I won this book from Marilyn on her blog along with a free sample of Starbucks new instant coffee (yes, I can taste the difference). Whew. I feel cleansed. Now back to the review.
ACCORDING TO JANE felt like a delightful mix of part Pride and Prejudice, part Ally McBeal with a little bit of High Fidelity thrown in. Discuss… as the main characters Jane and Ellie would say.
Just when you think you’ve had Austen up the wazoo and up to here with fan fiction out comes something different, refreshing and, well, charming.
It all starts in Ellie Barnett’s high school English Lit class when she opens an assigned copy of Pride and Prejudice while being flirted with by her secret crush and constant nemesis, Sam, and she suddenly hears the ‘tsk’ of Jane Austen giving her an ominous Mr. Wickham warning in her head. Is Ellie going batty? Maybe. But there starts a twenty year relationship between Ellie, Jane and all the men in her life. And thankfully there are quite a few.
Brant tells an endearing story that takes you back to the heart wrenching days of adolescence, through the coming of age of college and beyond, and she gives you the soundtrack to boot. She smoothly takes you from the past to the present on a ride that you are happy to be on.
You see, Ellie is living with Jane in her head: her own angel on her shoulder who she welcomes but at times would maybe like to give a little swat. Jane freely gives dating, family and even fashion advice all in a highly elevated Regency tone that was fun to read against Ellie’s modern style.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” -Pride and Prejudice
Riiight. I found myself smiling and laughing while reading this book and my heart breaking at times for dear Ellie, who is endearing and vulnerable without being overly sappy. She is a heroine you can root for because you see a lot of yourself in her. She goes at life with her eyes wide open but still it somehow knocks her around. Who hasn’t played that song and had it on repeat a few times?
Ultimately, this is a story of growth, friendship and love. You might wonder just how far a person can be friends with the spirit in their head, but, hey, by the end of the book (well, long before), the spirit of Jane was a well formed character for me. The conversations between Jane and Ellie felt natural, and I found myself wanting to join in. Beethoven versus The Beastie Boys? How fun. It was also great to see Brant exploring a certain amount of vulnerability in the almost unflappable Jane character and sprinkling in a bit of history without being overbearing.
I say, Austen fan or not, give this sweet and at times wickedly sexy book a try.