Re Jane by Patricia Park

I love Jane Eyre. I say I love it, but what I mean is that I capital letter L-O-V-E Jane Eyre.

So it should come as no surprise that I try to read all the retellings. I haven’t decided whether or not this is a good idea. I’ve had varying levels of success. The Flight of Gemma Hardy was a pleasant surprise. Jane by April Lindner was a disaster. Jane Slayre left me whelmed*. Jenna Starborn is Jane Eyre in space, with cyborgs. Re Jane, however, is a modern update worth reading.

Jane Re lives in Flushing, Queens. It’s the summer of 2001 and Jane has recently graduated from college. She’s an orphaned half-Korean, half-American living with her uncle. She toils diligently in his grocery store, but never quite lives up to his expectations and feels like an outsider – it’s a simple, yet lonely existence. She is neither Korean enough (too tall), nor American enough (too Asian). Desperate to get out from under her Uncle’s thumb, she takes a job nannying in Brooklyn. Here she is coddled, loved, and welcomed with open arms. She strengthens her feminist reading habits under the tutelage Dr. Beth Mazer and her hero eating habits with Mr. Ed Farley. Sooner, and perhaps not unexpectedly, she begins to loathe the former and love the latter. As the affair progresses, Jane is suddenly called away, by both her conscience and her family, to her Korean homeland.

This is where the story begins to fall short as a retelling and shine in its own right. Ed is no Edward Fairfax Rochester, nor should he be in the modern world of education and mobility. Here, Farley serves as a tool for Jane to learn who she is, how to live, and where she fits in New York’s bustling landscape (both pre and post 9/11). It’s fascinating to learn about Jane’s Korean heritage, and I particularly loved the idea of tap-tap-hae – emotional and/or physical claustrophobia. It explores themes of race, culture, and identity as easily as it examines themes of love and fidelity. Re Jane does not get weighed down by recreating details of its classic inspiration; instead it offers a fresh perspective and a lovely coming of age story. I strongly recommend it.

Re Jane Hero

Although this novel is filled with (often delicious) food references, I don’t know if you can pair Re Jane with anything other than a hero. Try this Chicken Parmesan Hero with Basil from Simple Bites.

How do you feel about retellings?

*I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?

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  • Naomi

    I usually avoid re-tellings unless I’ve heard they’re worth reading. This is the third good review I’ve read of this book, and it’s already on my list. Maybe the secret is not to get too close to the original – let it take its own course.
    Also, I didn’t know about all the food references – another good reason to read it!

    • Rory O’Connor

      I think that’s true, when it’s too close, it invites too much comparison. I like a book that gives a solid nod to a classic, but can stand on it’s own too.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading

    I’m with Naomi in that retellings make me nervous, especially if I really liked the original story (and I’m a big Jane Eyre fan). I like that this one sounds like it has a life of its own, so I think I have to give it a shot.

    • Rory O’Connor

      If it’s one I care about, it does not make me nervous. If I love it, I tend to feel very uneasy about reading it (though clearly I’m a sucker for punishment).

  • Kate

    Looks good (the sandwich and the book).

    • Rory O’Connor

      This was much better than Ana of California (which I have not reviewed yet, but it’s coming).

  • Jennine G.

    I love stories that copy, parallel, connect, or play off of other stories. Especially when it’s being done from a well known story. I just read a chapter in a book for my AP class’s summer reading about so many remakings of Shakespeare. It was this topic basically.

    • Rory O’Connor

      I love remaking Shakespeare (I actually referenced one of my favorite movies that does just that – 10 Things I Hate About You – in the above review)!

  • tanya (52 books or bust)

    I’m not really an Austen fan and it’s been years since I’ve read Jane Eyre, and yet I’m quite intrigued by this novel. I really want to read it. What i’m worried about is that I’ve forgotten so many of the Jane Eyre references that the cleverness will fly right over my head.

    • Rory O’Connor

      It’s a good book it its own right. It may even be better when you don’t remember, so that you aren’t constantly comparing the two.

  • mariahelena

    OK. I’ve added this one to my tbr pile. I’m totally gonna blame you when I realize I’ll never make it through the entire list.

    • Rory O’Connor

      I will happily accept the blame. 🙂

  • Melinda

    I’ve had Re Jane on my TBR for quite some time now. On a side note, I had never heard of Jenna Starborn before, but it made me think of an episode of Friends!

    • Rory O’Connor

      Which episode? I don’t remember!

      • Melinda

        It was the episode where Phoebe is taking a class on the Brontes at the new school and Rachel decides to join her, but she doesn’t bother to do any of the reading. She comes to class one day and gets the scoop from Phoebe and then answers the question like she’s read the book. The next time–and I do think Jane Eyre was the subject–Phoebe tells her that the book is about cyborgs and then Rachel tells the entire class about all the cyborgs in Jane Eyre.

        • Rory O’Connor

          I do remember that one!

  • Andi

    This sounds like a really interesting take. I have The Flight of Gemma Hardy on my TBR already, so I’ll start there but will most likely end up here.

    • Rory O’Connor

      The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a much more traditional retelling, but both are solid.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I really need to read Jane Eyre, followed by Re Jane. It sounds like a great twist on a classic.

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