Journeying from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul, and back, this is a fresh, contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre and a poignant Korean American debut.
For Jane Re, half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she's been trying to escape from her whole life. Sardonic yet vulnerable, Jane toils, unappreciated, in her strict uncle's grocery store and politely observes the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of good manners, hierarchy, and obligation). Desperate for a new life, she's thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Inducted into the world of organic food co-ops, and 19th-century novels, Jane is the recipient of Beth Mazer's feminist lectures and Ed Farley's very male attention. But when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed's blossoming affair, she flies off to Seoul, leaving New York far behind.
Reconnecting with family, and struggling to learn the ways of modern-day Korea, Jane begins to wonder if Ed Farley is really the man for her. Jane returns to Queens, where she must find a balance between two cultures and accept who she really is.
Re Jane is a bright, comic story of falling in love, finding strength, and living not just out of obligation to others, but for one's self.
©2015 Patricia Park (P)2015 Penguin Audio
Book blogger that who has delved into the world of audiobooks to reduce the monotony of the daily commute.
Re Jane started off as a really fun read, a retelling of Jane Eyre that turned the story on its head and shook it up and down. Think a modern, Korean-America Jane who toils in her uncle’s corner store in Queens, New York (imaginatively titled ‘Food’). A Jane that didn’t get the career she went to college with due to the economic downturn, so decided to take an au pair job just to get out of Queens. A Jane that flies across the world on a whim, telling no one and reinventing herself – hang on, that sounds completely different!
Well it does because it is. While some of the similarities in Patricia Park’s retelling are obvious are soon as they are revealed, there are also big changes to the narrative. If you have a slavish devotion to original plot, there are some aspects of Re Jane that you really won’t like (like K-dramas, Beth as Bertha and the way Jane strings along some people). Hang on, did I just make a statement that Jane wasn’t a perfect golden heroine? Yes, I did. Jane Re is selfish and whinging at times. She’s after what’s best for her, except quite often she doesn’t know what it is herself. She abandons Devon, who she is the au pair for after sleeping with her father and flies to Korea, telling nobody. Oh, and this all happens on the night of 10th September 2001. So nobody – not her uncle, not the Farleys (Beth and Ed) know whether she’s dead or alive. But Jane doesn’t stop there. In Korea, she gets engaged, but then decides that’s not really what she wants either. I get that Jane is mixed up, being an orphan with a doubt over her parentage, bummed over her inability to get a job in her chosen field and young and foolish, but- she is still really, really selfish and unthinking. So while I started out loving Jane, in the end I wasn’t too fussed what happened. She seemed to take everything in her stride, then expect more without giving anything.
And our modern Mr Rochester? Well, Ed Farley was a limp fish for me. He’s not particularly stand-out awesome, nor brooding and moody. He’s just an average guy who is happy to go with the flow, cheat on his hyper-achieving wife and makes sandwiches. He was kind of bland. While I understand that in no way should Jane’s future depend on Ed in this day and age, he’s not a hero I wanted her Jane. They just seemed so…unsuited (even though Ed could be just as selfish as Jane). I much preferred Jane’s suitor in Korea, who was sweet, devoted and caring. I felt bad for him when things turned pear shaped! For me, the other star was Devon. The modern Adele, she’s smart and sassy and not afraid to try to bend the rules. I felt both Jane and Ed gave her short shift in the later part of the novel – I would have loved to see more of her.
Despite my character gripes, I did enjoy the story of Re Jane, trying to match the plot movements to that of the original story and marvelling at how well Patricia Park changed things for the modern era. Kudos also goes to Diana Bang, who was the perfect voice for Jane and did a great Korean accent. I loved Jane’s explanation of nunchi (trying to fix a particularly awkward situation smoothly – something that happens a lot in the story) and tap tap hae (that feeling that everything is closing around you in a social situation) and the section of the book set in Korea. It’s a good story, just don’t expect Jane herself to be redeemed.
"Great Book, but Seriously. . ."
A cautionary tale for Audio fans - this could be a really fun book to read, but beware this narrator!
I loved the take on "Jane Eyre", the characters are bright and involving, and the twist on the old story is entirely appropriate for modern audiences. This is a mish-mash of cultural clashes and identities, of academic farce (Victorian Women's Studies!) and political correctness. It moves easily from New York to South Korea and back again- and our Jane does indeed learn a lot about life and love and belonging.
But I nearly returned this audio book, and the reason is the narrator. Seriously, it's difficult to bear throughout. Diana Bang literally "reads" this as if she were experiencing the words and public recital for the first time. Exactly the same emphasis is placed on each and every word - including "is" and "a" and "the"! The cadence is always the same. It diminished the experience for me, and I am looking forward to getting a hard copy.
I'd advise listening to the sample carefully before committing to this listen. "Re Jane" has proven (to me, at least) that, once again, the reader can make or break even the most interesting of books.
"Absolutely terrible narration..."
This was my book club's selection which I wouldn't have picked on my own because I'm not a fan of coming-of-age stories. However, I was intrigued by the novel being cross-cultural and I have lived in both NYC and Seoul, so I was actually looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, Ms. Bang destroyed this novel with her narration. She read this as if she was on stage at a poetry slam. I wish I had abandoned the audio version and read the book on my Kindle.
"Great Cross-Cultural Story!"
I grew up straddling two cultures and I found that this book not only nailed a lot of the feelings I've had over the years when visiting both sides but it was well-written, funny, and true to life -- as we are all non-perfect human beings. I also loved learning more about Korean culture. I was in South Korea for the first time last month through my taekwondo training. So many things in her descriptions made me laugh and want to go back. Thank you for a wonderful story! I learned about this book via her interview on NPR.
"hard to enjoy with such an awful performance"
it was hard to listen to. first book I have ever returned. terrible performance. Diana Bang shouldn't narrate ever again. unless maybe a Shatner memoir.
"Total Misunderstanding of the nature of Jane Eyre"
it seems to me that the author completely misunderstand the Bronte Jane Eyre, instead of finding a modern Jane, the author sites a sempering and mini-mouthed shell. Jane is so desperate for affection she falls for her married employer who offers her nothing but McDonald's and food he hides from his wife. As from tier first sexual encounter of is clear of the authors bias against the Jane and Edward romance. Jane is led like a dog the whole book and the author spends more time fleshing out side characters that we leave the book worth no sense of completion. I have no aversion to a changed ending of it could leave me complete but this book falls woefully short.
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