Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: "Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan" by Robin Maxwell

Synopsis:  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 traveling 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 to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane 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 publication marks the centennial of the original Tarzan of the Apes.

My Thoughts:  This was such a unique story!  I'll be honest, my only experience with Tarzan and Jane prior to reading this book was the Disney movie so I didn't quite know what to expect.  I have to say that I loved the fact that this story took place in a completely different historical era and that most of the story was set outside of Europe and the U.S.  The story starts in the States, travels back in time to England but the majority of the story takes place in the jungles of Africa as Jane Porter describes her story to a writer in Chicago in 1912.  Ms. Maxwell's descriptions of Western Africa's flora and fauna are magical; you could almost hear the sounds of the jungle around you.  I also really enjoyed reading about the tribal people as well as the 'Mangani', a group of ape-like peoples; Maxwell's detailed descriptions of these groups, their customs and way of life really added to the ambience of the story.

Ms. Maxwell's created/adapted some amazing characters.  Tarzan was completely endearing.  From the moment he made his way into the story, I couldn't help but adore him.  He seemed to be incredibly intelligent and I loved watching him grow throughout the story.  He was also so gentle and loving towards Jane that you couldn't help but want them to wind up together. The villain, Ral Conrath, is so charming in the beginning of the story that even I was fooled by him.  When his intentions are revealed, I was shocked because Maxwell had made him seem like such a good person.  Jane was so tough and intelligent; I found her to be such an admirable character and loved how much she avoided the traditional role she was expected to play as a wealthy woman in early 20th century England.  The one thing I did find a little unrealistic was that Jane seemed to adapt fairly easily to living in the jungle in a very primitive manner without any complaints.  It seemed to me that even a tomboy like her would have balked at the complete lack of amenities. 

In addition to having great characters, the story pulled me in and didn't let go.  From the beginning, I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next and I pretty much flew through the book.  I loved the way it ended but I couldn't help wanting more because I loved the characters so much.  I may have to read the original Tarzan and the Apes now as I really want to read more about these characters and their adventures.  If you are looking for something outside the usual historical fiction box, I highly recommend this book.  4 stars.

About the Author:

ROBIN MAXWELL is the national bestselling author of eight historical fiction novels featuring powerful women, including Signora da Vinci and the award-winning Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, now in its twenty-fourth printing. She lives in the high desert of California with her husband, yogi Max Thomas.

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