ARC, e-book, 321 pages
September 18, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction/Adaptation of Classic
Source: Received from publisher for review
“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 travelling 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 on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane ﬁnds an Africa that is every bit exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she 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 2012 publication will mark the centennial of the publication of the original Tarzan of the Apes.”
I had been really looking forward to this book from the moment I heard about it as I have very much enjoyed the two Maxwell books I have had the chance to read thus far. I also am attracted to books that tell the other side of the story from the traditional tale, and the story of Tarzan from Jane’s perspective offers so much for an author to work with. Maxwell did not let me down!
This novel allowed the reader into Jane’s world. The story is framed out as a story within a story - that is, Jane is telling aspiring novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs the tale of how she came to have these “missing link” bones and why she believes so highly that they are real. It is in this tale that we come to learn about Tarzan, his ape-like family, and the crazy adventure that Jane was a part of. I always wondered what a woman from that period in time would be doing traveling to Africa with an expeditionary party – it always seemed a little out of place to me, but Maxwell’s Jane as a very forward thinking woman and her reasons for going with her father, to find the missing link, made sense. I LOVED how she didn’t become just the damsel in distress that she is portrayed as in so many of the movies – but grew and evolved just as Tarzan did. She was admirable for her doubts, fears, courage, strength, and commitment.
The Tarzan that Maxwell creates in reminiscent of what we would all want Tarzan to be: the peak performer in his environment, caring, a fast learner, and of course handsome in that rugged way. He was very much human but still quite wild too – a perfect mix. He may have learned a little too quickly for me at times for it to be believable, but I can let that pass.
I like all of the little details that Maxwell added into tie Burroughs’ tale together with hers. We learn of Jane’s upbringing and her university education where she was admitted into an all-male class. I loved how Jane’s father and team were paleoanthropologists searching for the missing link – a very good reason for them to have been going to Africa. I liked how she was telling her tale to Burroughs who then had her permission to do with the story what he wanted – which resulted in his book, Tarzan of the Apes. These little touches really helped solidify the story for me.
While the first half of the novel was a little slower as the character of Jane is built, the second half of the novel zips right along. From the time we start learning about Tarzan’s family and how they ended up on the lone shore I was sucked in and couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what happened next! While the bulk of the story was an exercise in character building and understanding between Tarzan and Jane, the ending felt like it was straight out of an Indiana Jones type movie – a little bit of a shift for me, but apparently some of the movie versions have an action-adventure type take on them.
I haven’t read the original work of Burroughs, but I do still plan to get to it one day and see how the two books mesh. While this might not have been the absolutely perfect novel, it was a breath of fresh air that I absorbed with every pore – un-put-downable!
Author Robin Maxwell also has written several other historical books including the recent O, Juliet and Signora da Vinci. You can visit Robin’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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