- My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-265277-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-265279-9 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10
This uproarious, irreverent homage to Jane Eyre features Jane herself as a character alongside Charlotte Brontë, two young women with dismal prospects given their plain looks and sad lack of fortune. The tale begins with a murder, a visit from agents of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, and an offer of employment to Jane that might make all the difference for Jane and Charlotte, if only Charlotte can persuade Jane to accept it. Star agent Alexander Blackwood is determined to lure Jane, who can compel ghosts, to their employ, but Jane wants no part in relocating spirits, given that her best friend is in fact a ghost, and she’s also smitten by her current employer, the broody Mr. Rochester. Chapters alternate focus between Jane, Charlotte, and Alexander as the adventure gets more and more [End Page 428] harrowing; people aren’t who they seem to be, violence erupts as corruption is exposed, and romance threatens good sense. Authorial asides poke fun at both literary and cultural conventions, performing much-needed feminist interventions along the way. That said, the whole story situates itself squarely in an ironic affirmation of romance as a priority and preoccupation of our heroines; yes, dear reader, the struggle is, and always has been, real. While readerly familiarity with Jane Eyre will enhance appreciation of the cleverness of the plot twists and language use, there are enough allusions to other pop-culture referents to make for laugh-out-loud moments even for the uninitiated. This lively romp thus makes a perfect addition to a beach bag.