Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jane Airhead - A Review

Our thanks to Andersen Press for sending us a review copy of this book.

Jane Airhead
Kay Woodward
# Paperback: 144 pages
# Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd (5 Nov 2009)
# ISBN-10: 1842709763
# ISBN-13: 978-1842709764
We have recently seen several new publications of comic adaptations of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The purposes of the authors were invariably to spark the interest of young/teenage readers towards the classics and/or to make the original books more approachable to them.

Kay Woodward's intentions with her novel are not so explicit, but are probably much more successful. Jane Airhead is a novel full of esprit, funny and well written that transpires love for Charlotte Brontë's novel and what is more important, it makes Jane Eyre (novel and character) look quite cool.

Jane Airhead shares many things with its namesake. But none of them are essential to follow the narrative. The web of references and internal rhymes are threaded throughout the plot without interference and without looking forced. Like its predecessor, the novel is narrated in the first person by the witty, lovely, average looking and Jane Eyre-obsessed thirteen year old Charlotte who lives with her divorced mother (Jane Austen lover and teacher of literature). Charlotte's attempts to put a Rochester in her mum's life via the broody and proud owner of a couple of impressive sideburns French professor(1) constitute the basic plot around which the novel develops with great pace.

There are windowsills, a Rochester wannabe, a (sort of) madwoman in the attic and numerous references to characters in Jane Eyre (and even to Lyndall Gordon's Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life and to contemporary popular culture(2). The novel alternates between a realistic treatment of the dialogues and the family relationships but doesn't try to give a generational portrait(3). No big drama, no teen angst... not missed, though. The novel's main problem arrives with the conclusion. Too precipitated and a bit disappointing as it is not built internally but appears as a sort of accelerated deus ex machina.

Jane Airhead might not be on any top ten list of young adult novels. It might not be turned into a successful series of books (it doesn't feature vampires, wizards, not even good-looking-but-oh-so-dangerous boyfriends). But if we have to measure a novel for the good time spent and the out-loud laughs it causes, Jane Airhead excelled on both counts. And that's quite a compliment these days.

Notes

(1) We wonder if this is not a wink to Charlotte Brontë's crush with Professor Heger.
(2) Although references to Greta Garbo or the Thunderbirds are probably beyond many of the potential readers of the text.
(3) We missed a bigger presence of the social networks in the plot. Just some emails are exchanged between Charlotte and her friends. No Facebook? No Messenger? Hardly believable.

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1 Comment
Traxy said...
on  

I loved this book. Yes, it's very simple and doesn't exactly challenge the reader one bit, but it's cute and bubbly and the love of Brontë shines through, which is delightful. Absolutely agree about the ending being predictable and disappointing... Still, fun nonetheless. :)

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