April 25, 2013

Review #22: Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell


Everyone knows the story of Tarzan and Jane, but never has the story been told from the point of view of Jane.  This is a stunning and complex novel and I hope I can do it justice in the review.

The story begins in Chicago in 1912 with Jane Porter, an academic and anthropologist and feminist, giving a lecture on a missing species link.  The other academics do not believe her, not even when she presents them with the proof of a skeleton of the species.  However one man, Edgar, is fascinated and asks her to tell him the story of how she discovered this species. 

She isn't sure how to begin so she dives right into one of the juiciest parts of the story- waking up in a nest in a tree in the jungles of Gabon after a leopard attack in which a half-naked man who flies through the jungle on vines like an ape, has saved her life.  Jane is alive, but she has been injured severely and it is up to the ape-man to bring her back to health.  It is 1905 and Jane, her father, Archie, also an anthropologist, and a team of explorers, headed up by American Ral Conrath, had gone to Gabon in West Africa in search of fossils in the Enduro Encarpment caves.  Ral Conrath turns out not to be what Jane nor her father expected and has lied to them about why he wanted to come on this expedition. 

After the leopard attack, her separation from the rest of the exploration team and her father, who had also been injured, as well as her rescue by the ape-man, Jane begins trying to communicate with the ape-man.  Very slowly they begin to use sign language and repetition as a means to communicate.  She finds he calls himself Tarzan and she learns that he moves through the jungle swinging from tree to tree like an ape.  As her strength returns, he takes her with him on his back and she discovers a that Tarzan was in fact raised by an undiscovered species that is in between an ape and a human.  Called Mangani, they are covered in fur, have thick leathery pads on their hands and feet like apes, and live much like apes, but they walk completely upright and, most exciting of all, they talk.  Jane recognizes the language as the one Tarzan uses, which is very similar to the language of the nearby Waziri tribe of humans as well.  Jane cannot believe the magnitude of discovering the Mangani. 

So not only is this a story full of how Jane and Tarzan met and fell in love, but it is also a story about an anthropologist who discovers there are more secrets in this jungle than she ever realized there could be and the ethical dilemma she soon is faced with- should she, as a scientist, take Tarzan and proof of the missing-species link back to England or should she let the Mangani live a life free from being descended upon and experimented on as surely would happen if they were discovered? 

I have never read Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan story, but I absolutely LOVED reading this book.  As a student of sociology, I love learning about other cultures and that is basically what the Mangani were to me, personally, was a different culture.  They were very complex and had problems and struggles and amazing family units of their own.  Their story and why Tarzan no longer lived with them was just as intriguing to me as the one between Tarzan and Jane.

If you love the story of Tarzan or if you love historical fiction, or if you just like really good stories, I recommend you pick up Jane.  This was my first Robin Maxwell novel and I have to say I am extremely impressed with her blending of historical facts, Burrough’s Tarzan and Jane, and her own creative fiction.  Jane is instantly likeable and Ral is instantly questionable.  Tarzan is instantly kind and mysterious and you just root for Jane and Tarzan the whole time just as you root for them to take down Ral and to not let him hurt the Waziri tribe. 

The romance between Tarzan and Jane is epic.  You know it’s going to happen yet you are still anticipating it and excited when it does.  That is how well Maxwell has written the novel. 


Have you read Jane?  What did you think?  If you haven’t read it, are you putting it on your TBR list right now?  




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12 comments:

  1. I never liked the old Tarzan TV show because it was so cheesy and I'm kind of sad to say that's my only exposure to Tarzan. Your enthusiasm for this book makes me want to read it.

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    1. Kathy, I think you would really like this one!

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  2. This sounds like such an interesting take on the Jane and Tarzan story! I've never read the original Tarzan either.

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    1. I was very impressed with Maxwell's story!

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  3. This sounds fabulous! I've only read some of Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter books, never the Tarzan ones...but I think I'll check this out first anyway. :)

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    1. If you do, let me know how you like it! :D

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  4. I have read Tarzan, mostly focusing on the colonialist/imperialist parts though since it was for class and I'm very familiar with the Disney version so this book is also of interest to me. Not sure when I'll get a chance to check it out though just because I have so many other titles vying for attention.

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    1. I know what you mean with all the books vying for attention! I hope you can get to it someday, as it really is worth the read.

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  5. I started the first Tarzan book and it was... weird. I was creeped out because Tarzan wanted to get it on with an ape.

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    1. Whoa! That doesn't happen in this book. He lived with apes but he only has the hots for Jane.

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  6. After reading The Island of Dr Moreau last night, anything romancey between a human and 'missing link' thing just creeps me out, lol.

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    1. Oh no romance happens between Tarzan and Jane, not with the missing links or apes. Tarzan is fully human, he just lives with the apes, which the book will give the back story to.

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