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review 2016-01-21 22:08
Re Jane: Smart Fun
Re Jane: A Novel - Patricia Park

The danger in reviewing Patricia Park's book is that in listing her many accolades & accomplishments, you’ll miss out on the smart fun of her debut novel, Re Jane.

 

She’s not only a Fulbright scholar, but a first-time novelist who earned the author trifecta:

  •   The New York Times Sunday Book Review named Re Jane as Editor’s Choice.
  •   NPR’s Fresh Air called Re Jane, “a wickedly inventive updating of Jane Eyre…”
  •   And O, Oprah’s magazine!!, writes, “Reader, you’ll love her.”

In Re Jane, Park has dared to re-make beloved heroine Jane Eyre into a Korean-American orphan growing up in the ‘00s in Queens, New York.  She works at her uncle’s grocery called simply, “Food.”

 

Jane is desperate to escape the outer boroughs to Manhattan, that core borough which “blazed in its own violet light and threw scraps of shadows on the rest of us,” Park writes. But when Jane's post-college promised dot.com job goes bust, she travels through Manhattan to work in hipster Brooklyn. As a nanny. To another adoptee, a Chinese-American girl, Devon.

 

Ironies abound, and Park skewers them all. Devon’s mom—the crazy woman in the attic--is recast as a feminist, very meta professor. And Devon’s dad, Rochester, is an ABD, All-But-Dissertation, English prof, languishing at a community college.

 

As Jane shuttles between worlds--from Korean-American Queens to Brooklyn academe to nanny-on-the-playground, to Seoul, Korea, to her return to New York—I won’t say to which borough—we root for her to find her own path to that violet light.

 

Jane—and Park—travel the complete range of culture from high to low and back with verve and wit and tenderness.

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review 2015-12-29 16:30
Re Jane: Smart Fun

 

 

The danger in reviewing Patricia Park's book, is that in listing her many accolades & accomplishments, you’ll miss out on the smart fun of her debut novel, Re Jane. Park is not only a Fulbright scholar, but a first-time novelist who earned the author trifecta:

 

1. The New York Times Sunday Book Review named Re Jane as Editor’s Choice.

2. NPR’s Fresh Air called Re Jane, “a wickedly inventive updating of Jane Eyre…”

3. And O, Oprah’s magazine!!, writes, “Reader, you’ll love her.”

 

In Re Jane, Park has dared to re-make beloved heroine Jane Eyre into a Korean-American orphan growing up in the ‘00s in Queens, New York.  She works at her uncle’s grocery called simply, “Food.”

 

Jane is desperate to escape the outer boroughs to Manhattan, that core borough which “blazed in its own violet light and threw scraps of shadows on the rest of us,” Park writes. But when Jane's post-college promised dot.com job goes bust, she travels through Manhattan to work in hipster Brooklyn. As a nanny. To another adoptee, a Chinese-American girl, Devon.

 

Ironies abound, and Park skewers them all. Devon’s mom—the crazy woman in the attic--is recast as a feminist, very meta professor. And Devon’s dad, Rochester, is an ABD, All-But-Dissertation, English prof, languishing at a community college.

 

As Jane shuttles between worlds--from Korean-American Queens to Brooklyn academe to nanny-on-the-playground, to Seoul, Korea, to her return to New York—I won’t say to which borough—we root for her to find her own path to that violet light.

 

Jane—and Park—travel the complete range of culture from high to low and back with verve and wit and tenderness.

 

 

 

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review 2015-07-23 20:45
A Clever Re-Imagining, and/or a Satisfying Read
Re Jane: A Novel - Patricia Park

There are two ways to look at this book -- as a retelling of Jane Eyre and as a novel on its own terms. It's clearly indebted to Jane Eyre -- frequently, the allusions are subtle; sometimes, she might as well be jumping up and down waving a flag. Still, Park's her own writer -- this is its own story, with its own characters -- and a heroine who's not just Brontë's best-known character thinly disguised.

 

If you haven't read <b>Jane Eyre</b>, first of all -- shame on you. Secondly, yes, you can read this and appreciate it -- you'll just miss some of Park's cleverness. Instead, what you'll get is a straight-forward story about the trials and travails (and travels) of a young Korean-American woman.

 

Jane Re's a half-Korean college graduate who becomes a nanny for the daughter of a couple of silly (white) New Yorkers -- she's a stereotypical college professor in Women's Studies, he's a henpecked high-school English teacher. Their daughter was adopted from China, and is now old enough that she doesn't need a nanny -- which makes the whole thing a greater challenge. Still, it's better than the alternative -- returning to live with her uncle and aunt, who were forced to take her in after the death of her mother in Korea (and her family there being unwilling to keep her).

 

Then through a series of events you can read about yourself, she finds herself living for a bit in South Korea. This is as fascinating as you'd think it'd be. It's not just about a young South Korean woman, it's about a young half-South Korean woman, raised in the States (by people who left Korea decades before), trying to acclimate to Korea. A stranger in the U.S. to many because of culture and appearance, finds herself a greater stranger there for the same reasons.

 

Which leads to . . . spoiler stuff. Which is even more interesting. Along the way there's a whole mess of family issues, stranger-in-a-strange-land issues, self-acceptance issues, romance issues, and other things I can't pair with the word "issues." Jane goes through a lot, I've got to say -- maybe a wider-range of challenges than Eyre. I frequently found myself wanting a bit more spunk, a bit more chutzpah from Jane throughout. But, like her namesake, when she needed it, she found it within -- and it was great to see.

 

Park makes a pivotal choice in her selection of chronological setting -- and one that worried me. It'd have been so easy to go wrong with this, and I'm used to seeing it go badly -- but Park pulls it off, and actually makes it work for her.

 

In the end, I liked Jane. I rooted for her. I liked (some of) her family and friends. I was invested in the story. It's not going to go down as good as, or as important as, its inspiration -- but it's a well-written, warm, look at a woman learning how to take charge of her life.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2015/07/23/re-jane-by-patricia-park
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review 2015-04-05 11:09
Re Jane: A Novel by Patricia Park
Re Jane: A Novel - Patricia Park

Jane has lived in Flushing, Queens her entire life. After she was orphaned as a baby, her grandfather sent her from South Korea to live with her Uncle in America. She was always told it was for her own good due to the fact that her father was an American G.I. During that time, many Koreans were still racist towards biracial people. Jane doesn't see how growing up in Korea could have been any worse then the life she has in Flushing. She felt the same prejudices in America. She was, if not shunned, then kept at a distance by her peers. At home, she feels she is treated no better then an indentured servant. When she is offered the chance to work as a au pair for the Mazer-Farley family, she jumps at the chance. The Mazer-Farleys may be a little odd, but they treat her well and Jane absolutely loves their daughter, Devon. Things are great at first, then two things happen. She starts to fall in the with her employer, Ed, and there is a sudden death in her family that will send her rushing to Korea. Jane will find out the Korea of today is very different then the Korea she has heard about her entire life. It might even be the perfect place for her.

 

This was without a doubt the best retelling of Jane Eyre I have ever read. Park's writing is pure magic. The story never felt rushed or felt dragging at any point. The changes she made to the original story, in order to make it work for the early 2000s setting , felt right. All the characters were unique with their own distinct personalities. The American and Korean story-lines worked really well together. The only real problem I had with the book was Ed. It seems he is supposed to come of as loving and nurturing. Just a guy who had things turn out differently then plan. To me, though, he came off as manipulative and controlling. He was definitely no Mr. Rochester.

 

I will definitely keep an eye out for future titles by Park.

 

**Thank you Pamela Dorman Books/PENGUIN GROUP Viking and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

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