Premise: In this retelling of the Tarzan story, Jane Porter is a scientist who sets forth with her father on an African expedition that is led by adventurer and entrepreneur Ral Conrath, wherein they are on a mission to find the missing link. When they arrive in Africa, they encounter a hostile environment, from the natives to the flora and fauna to natural events out of their control. Jane soon learns Ral Conrath’s true character and finds herself in a confrontation with the wildlife which leaves her injured.
As she tells her story to writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane explains the details of her time being nursed back to health by Tarzan, her discovery of who Tarzan is and how he got to Africa, and her encounters with the Mangani, the very missing link she has been searching for and the creatures who raised Tarzan after the death of his family. Through this, Jane learns his ways and the ways of the Mangani and develops a love and a trust for Tarzan.
But the jungle is dangerous, especially for Tarzan and Jane, with the brutish Mangani leader Kerchak ready to kill Tarzan if he reappears in their midst and Ral Conrath willing to do whatever it takes to gain the gold of the natives, with unknown secrets of their own. Even more frightening is what to do with Tarzan now that his roots are known. And with Jane growing to love Tarzan, what will she do with herself?
Themes: A major theme in Jane is romance. When she meets Tarzan, Jane is immediately struck by his protective behavior and his physical structure. During her time with him, Jane’s animal lusts are drawn out along with romantic emotions she rarely feels.
Jane is packed with adventure and action that is almost nonstop. When they aren’t swinging from trees or fighting animals, Jane is experiencing life from a less civilized perspective in the African wild as Tarzan teaches her the ways of the jungle.
Pros: The pacing in Jane is well-executed. There is so much action in Jane to which the romance and dialogue adds a nice contrast. The linguistic intricacies add a lot to the feel of the story and a depth that might have been lost without them. It helped having a language glossary in the back of the book. The interaction between Tarzan and Jane learning each others’ languages is gripping. If I had to pick one thing to say about Jane it would be that it is full of wonder and freshness on the part of almost every character, as if every single thing they are experiencing in this story is new. It is an inspiration to seek new experiences.
Cons: One of my complaints is the character consistency for Jane, especially in the last chapter. At the beginning she seems outspoken and uncompromising and without a sense of humor, but when we reach the final chapter she seemed like a completely different person who withholds information with a wink and a smirk from the very person she is telling her story to who she is trying to get to believe her. Her animal lusts for Tarzan seemed out of sync with her feminist ways, and giving in to Ral Conrath’s advance on the ship on the way to Africa and making excuses for him in their little encounter did not make sense at all. With that said, there is too much sex in Jane, especially Jane’s fascination with breasts. But my biggest problem with Jane is the outright anti-religion/pro-secular humanist thread through the story.
Recommendations: Jane is a creative re-imagining of the Tarzan story that comes from the perspective of Jane. We get a feminine perspective that is often lost in adventure stories. I think Jane is a great addition to the Tarzan story, adding depth to a character who sometimes fades into the background. While I thought there was too much sex and it was too anti-religion, I was still drawn into the characters and the execution of Jane. There is hinting at a sequel when we reach the end, but I felt it unnecessary since the story is complete as is. If this is the case, perhaps it is to go along with the serialized Tarzan stories of Burroughs, but I only hope Robin Maxwell will be less heavy-handed in future installments with any political or religious agenda she might have that came across in this one. It might sound like I didn’t like Jane, but overall I enjoyed it and had trouble putting it down in spite of the things I felt were the author’s views coming through in the writing.