Cambridge, England: 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat, dissecting corpses, than she is in a corset and gown, sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of travelling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientiﬁc hero, Charles Darwin.
When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane ﬁnds an Africa that is every bit exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane ﬁnds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.
Jane is the ﬁrst version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its 2012 publication will mark the centennial of the publication of the original Tarzan of the Apes.
Early Twentieth Century England, Africa, and America
Heat Level: 2 = More implied than depicted
Review Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Jenny Q:
Jane is one of the titles I’d been most curious about this year: I thought the concept of telling Tarzan’s story from Jane’s point of view was fantastic, and that wonderful cover was calling to me, daring me to pick up the book and enter Jane’s world. But I worried that it was the kind of story that could either be very good in the right writer’s hands, or very bad in the hands of the wrong one. Well, I’m happy to say that Jane falls firmly in the camp of the former, and my worry was put to rest instantly. Robin Maxwell has crafted my kind of story–full of adventure, danger, history, betrayal, revenge, and of course, true love–and she has created a character in Jane that has earned a spot on my list of favorites. Jane is smart, determined, ambitious, and brave, but she’s also kind, compassionate, and vulnerable, struggling to establish herself in a man’s world. Her story captivated me from page one.
Chicago, 1912. A young writer named Ed Burroughs attends a lecture and is drawn to the speaker, a controversial paleoanthropologist who endures heckling from a disbelieving crowd with grace and poise, and who afterward holds his rapt attention and sparks his imagination as she tells the tale of how she came to be touring the scholarly world with her claims of finding the “Missing Link.” Jane Porter’s story moves back in forth in time a bit, from the jungle of Africa to Cambridge and back again, building suspense to that monumental moment when she comes face to face with the legendary “Wild Ape-Man of the Forest.”
I loved watching Jane’s journey unfold and witnessing her discovery of her true self in the uninhibited wilds of Africa, and I loved watching Tarzan awaken to the concept of a whole other world and piece together the mystery of his early years and how he came to be raised by apes. And speaking of Africa, Maxwell’s descriptions–everything from the collision of European and native cultures in Libreville to the treacherous river journey into the interior to the jungle and all of the people and animals along the way–are so vivid and evocative, I was completely absorbed in and mesmerized by her story world.
As Jane and Tarzan forge a life together and face the wonders and terrors of the jungle and uncover secrets with far-ranging consequences should the outside world ever uncover them, the suspense and tension builds again, toward that other monumental moment, when Jane must decide where her future truly lies, and whether Tarzan will be a part of it. Maxwell leaves the reader in suspense until the very last, and throws in a nice little twist at the end. Though the ending did not leave me wholly satisfied, it did leave me with a smile on my face, and the small hope that Ms. Maxwell might consider writing another Jane and Tarzan adventure in the future.
There are a couple of niggling little things that keep me from rating Jane as perfect, but I enjoyed the story so much, and the wonderful characters of Jane and Tarzan continue to occupy space in my mind, days after finishing the book. Jane is sure to please fans of the original Tarzan books and historical fiction fans like myself, who have never read them. It’s a breath of fresh air among the novels of kings and queens, something totally different and utterly entertaining, and one of my favorite reads of the year.