Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wither-very quick review

Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1)Wither by Lauren DeStefano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rhine is trying to make extra money for herself and her twin Rowan by answering an ad to sell her marrow. The ad is a trap and she's captured by gatherers with a group of other girls. Out of the group 3 are chosen, including Rhine. The others are shot. This is a near future dystopia. Genetics created one perfect generation, but that generations children die young. Women at 20 and men at 25. Rhine and the other two girls are married off to the sheltered son of a wealthy doctor. Her husband is ridiculously unaware of reality. His father's mansion is designed to keep the outside world out, and those inside the walls are kept in as well. Rhine's conflicting emotions about her situation are believable. Sometimes she gets sucked into believing the lies and caring for her captors. The real conflict of the book seems to lie more in whether or not she follow through on her plans of escape or if she will give in to luxury and comfort. This book could have used a lot more tension and uncertainty, but the language and imagery moves the book along.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More thoughts on Jane

In the original Jane Eyre, Jane leaves Rochester because he is married and it goes against her moral fiber to be with a man who is married. When she runs, she does not want him to find her (at least, IMHO.)

When Jane Moore runs it seems to be more because she thinks Nico Rathburn is still in love with his mentally ill wife. It does not seem to be a moral stand about anything, at least, not a strong moral stand. Later, she admits that with all she did to make herself disappear (mails her cell phone to San Fransisco, changes her name) she was still hoping he would find her and convince her to come back. So basically it was just a test of his love for her and in this case, he kinda fails. But HEAs for everyone because this is based off the slightly more optimistic sister's book.

This completely alters the message of the original book for me. Though, for once, Jane has one damn flaw.

Oh, and I meant to tell you that I don't hate all updated versions of classics. I liked "10 things I hate about you." And, well, I'm sure there are others too, some that I probably didn't even realize were updates of something else.

"Jane" is no "Jane Eyre"

I know that Jane Eyre is a problematic novel. Jane is basically one of the first Mary Sues, and by being virtuous and some kind of female paragon she gets her rich, but roguishly flawed, husband. Still, it is a problematic novel representative of its time. Women had no agency, no recourse, but Jane finds a situation unsuitable and leaves it despite what it costs her. As a teen I loved her for her strength to leave Rochester. She's unusual in that time for her decision to refuse two marriage opportunities, when through marriage was the only chance a woman had to exert power over her own life. I did not begrudge her for going back to the man her heart truly desired when he was (conveniently) freed from his burdens (though he paid for that freedom, because the novel has to be redemptive, somehow.) Anyway, I unabashedly love this novel with its problems and issues, and even though I think it paved the way for Twilight. So I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a YA novel update with a rockstar Mr. Rochester and a modern setting and characters.

Updated classics are often even more problematic than their originals. What makes originals more bearable is that we can look at them in context and say, "This was remarkably X for time Y, even though it is also Zist." That being said, I read through "Jane" in the span of three hours last night, when I really needed to be trying to sleep. I even cried at it a little. But really, I don't think I was crying for the book I was reading, but in memory of my most beloved Jane Eyre. Jane Moore (I'm not sure what the name changes were about, I'd figure this book is out of copyright and any naming issues would be moot, but I'm unsure of the legalities) is at a desperate point. Her parents have died leaving her nothing, she can't afford to go back to Sarah Lawrence in the Fall and the Spring semester is ending with her being essentially homeless. So she goes to a nanny placement agency and because of her anachronistic ways gets sent to nanny Maddy, daughter of rock star Nico Rathburn.

Aside from more edgy language (Mr. Rathburn likes the F word) and sexytimes (ugh, that just turned my stomach actually) the plotting and characters are virtually the same, just more modern versions with details twisted to fit into plausibility. The most interesting aspect of this was that the author tried to fit more obvious motivations into the novel than are found in Jane Erye. I think more modern literature spends a lot of time being introspective and this novel is no exception. Jane Eyre soldiered on despite all that happened to her. Jane Moore spends a bunch of time analyzing and explaining herself (and tries harder to figure out Rathburn than Eyre ever did to figure out Rochester.) The time-period related problematicness of Jane Eyre don't get resolved in this book. Bibi, the Bertha Mason character, is still very much othered. She's Brazilian instead of Creole, but the implication about foreign women of color is still there. And our understanding of mental illness seems to be stuck in the Brontes time, because Rathburn keeps her locked away and keeps her secret and acts like he doesn't know where she is. He acts like her condition, which he blames himself for exacerbating (and I'm with him on this one), is still so shameful and secret the only way to deal with it is to lock her on the third floor with no one but an alcoholic for company/healthcare. Awesome work, Nico Rathburn. At least, unlike Mr. Rochester, he doesn't act like her whole family deceived him by not telling him of a hereditary history of mental illness. Cause that made me hate Rochester in the original Jane Eyre, so much. "You douche!" My teenaged brain cried on first reading, "Don't blame her for things that are Not Her Fault, and don't act like it would have stopped you from marrying her in the first place." And if you haven't read Wide Sargasso Sea, which is Jane Eyre from Bertha Mason's p.o.v, I suggest you do that to understand what I'm getting at here.

The thing I do like Mr. Rochester for more in Jane Eyre than Nico Rathburn in Jane is that Mr. Rochester takes in Adele even though he doesn't believe she is his, and treats her as well as he knows how. But, Nico Rathburn had to have a paternity test to prove Maddy was his and all that tired bullshit. Family is more than DNA, jerkface.

I didn't particularly enjoy modern Jane more than Original Jane. O.J. was really going against the grain of her station and time. M.J. was really mostly doing what was expected, to fall in love with a rockstar, and just by being an unflawed Mary Sue, she got her man. I really did not like the author for mentioning a couple of times that Jane Moore "ate whatever she wanted without getting fat." I don't really remember Jane and food in the original novel, but if it was in there at all it was probably there because of the Bronte siblings effed relationship with food. (Evidently in their horrible lives food and eating was the one thing they could control, and so they controlled it by not eating. There is speculation that the ones that supposedly died from consumption either worsened their conditions by their eating disorders or never had consumption at all. I learned this in my Romance novel genre study and no longer have any citations, sorry.) Anyway, given historical context and modern day food issues and fat acceptance issues, bad form there April Lindner. Oh, and bad form with the body image stuff on Brenda (Grace Poole) too. Bringing up that she was mannish as a negative image? And why didn't you twist up the whole novel a little more? Why are there no noticeable people of color as main (and non-servant) characters? Why is not one person any kind of (gender or sexuality) queer? Why is this book just the original with different wording?

I don't know. Even with a lot of awkwardness in passages (there was a lot of wording and backstory that took me out of the flow of the main story) and all the aforementioned stuff, the book still compelled me. I think mostly because I wanted to see what would change. In the light of day, I'd rather have spent that time re-reading the classic.