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Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell

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For an reader of adventure stories, some of the most stirring words are perhaps, “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane”. The story of the ape-man who was an English lord, and his mate, Jane, a young woman on safari is one that I have always been a huge fan of. From comic books to movies, the Tarzan legend has always been a favorite. Now, Robin Maxwell has written, Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan, telling the myth from the female point of view. I found this a great story, a thrilling adventure that is rooted firmly by the author’s research into both the setting and the history of the area.

The release of this book was timed for the centennial year of Edgar Rice Burroughs classic tale, and has the approval of the author’s estate. Her use of the original author as a character in her story, made for a cohesive and intriguing plot line. The ending of this book is also a homage to the original “pulp fiction” aspect of Tarzan. I have a feeling that Edgar would approve.

The only petty criticism I can offer is that the book had a slow start, perhaps a little too much time was spent in giving us Jane’s background and showing her to be a modern woman in a era that is on the brink of huge change. Once the book had launched the Parkers on the expedition, the storyline picked up and the action was pretty much non-stop.

For me Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan was a perfect blend of an electrifying adventure with a spellbinding love story, a winning combination. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jul 12, 2013 |
I read all the Tarzan books decades ago and he was one of my favorite characters although very different from the movie versions. However some people would have trouble with the originals because of some of the attitudes expressed in the books. After all, Burroughs began this series before WWI and he was tailoring his tales to the expectations of the audience for pulp adventure stories.

Robin Maxwell, in this duly authorized story, has retold the initial story from Jane's perspective. She has a chance meeting with the struggling writer Ed Burroughs and decides to tell him her story. The beginning is in Cambridge, England in 1905 where Professor Porter has arranged for his daughter to attend classes at the University although women can't receive degrees. Jane also assists her father in his home laboratory. The opportunity arises for the pair to go on an expedition to Africa to search for evidence of Darwin's "missing link". Once there various problems lead her into Tarzan's orbit and they do come to care for one another.

This version is very interesting and I enjoyed it a great deal. One of the best things about Maxwell's retelling is that she made some of the elements of Tarzan's origin more believable for today's audience and Jane is in no way a clinging vine.
  hailelib | Jun 30, 2013 |
When I first heard about this book, I was really excited. It seemed unique and original. I read several reviews, all of which had different opinions, usually to one extreme or the other. After reading this, I can see where both sides may come from, but I really, really enjoyed this book.
For full disclosure, understand that I have never read the original Tarzan. The only Tarzan I know well is Disney's version. I know several reviewers have hated this book because they didn't feel it was accurate to the original story line. I can't say if it is or not, so I read this as a general, un-knowledgeable reader who was just looking for a good story.
With that aside, I really loved this book. Jane Porter is a woman who wants more for herself than what society and her mother say she needs, aka a good husband and a quiet, demure attitude. Jane doesn't want this. Her heart longs for adventure, education, and discoveries. She longs for a life where she is seen as an equal to a man, and she refuses to marry anyone who would not see her as an equal. When a dashing exploring, Ral Conrath, invites her and her father on a mission to find the 'missing link', she is overjoyed. Little does she know what this African jungle has in store for her.
Jane is an excellent protagonist. Being a scientist, she has great observation skills, so the jungles and forests are described beautifully. It isn't everyday that a writer can make really gross things (in my opinion) like cadavers and blood thirsty battles (neither of which are dominant, but both have their parts) sound fascinating and natural.
My favorite part of this book was the development of the characters and their relationship. Jane, being Jane, didn't just fall in love with the first 'savage' man she saw. She takes time to get to know him, and even then, her level head never goes to far away. Their love is not a 'love at first kind' type. Though their situation is far from normal, the way they fall in love over time is shown in a beautiful and universal way. They don't let the situation take control of how they feel. You get to see Tarzan as more than his 'ape-man' label. You get to see the true humanity in him, the traits that the most civilized man has long forgotten, but is found through this 'simple' man. You see that it wasn't just his cave-man-ness nor her being the first white female of his age that he has ever seen that made their love possible. It was how their personalities, their hearts, really complimented each other in a way that only the best couples have.
Told with a strong voice and an intense plot, Jane is a wonderful book for people who want a good story and want to find out what Jane thought about all this. ( )
1 vote SamanthaKR | Jun 15, 2013 |
This book stands as the back story to Burrough's Tarzan series and it is told from Jane's view point. Jane and her Dad are suckered into joining and funding an expedition into West Africa by American Ral Conrath.

When Conrath leaves Jane behind to satisfy a leopard, Tarzan rescues her and transports her to his 'nest'. He heals her and protects her as he trains her to the ways of the jungle, even as she begins to slough off the proper lady-like behavior of English Society. ( )
  cfk | May 18, 2013 |
Released in the centennial year for the publication of Tarzan of the Apes original publication and endorsed by Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate, Jane is an involving, detailed, engrossing, and yet, original retelling of a well-loved and widely known story. Robin Maxwell is my first exposure to actually reading the mythos of the Tarzan world (watching the 1999 Disney animated movie clearly does not count), and her updated version, while clearly paying homage to the source material, is indelibly her own. Jane is a novel rife with adventure, credible characters, excitement, betrayals, and revelations. An engaging read from the get-go, the spotlight on protagonist and narrator Jane makes for a fast but highly enjoyable read for those all too-short 320 pages. I had planned to read Burroughs' original version, but now I wonder if that one will hold up as well in my opinion as what Maxwell has recreated here.

As the title character and first-person narrator for the eponymous novel, Jane will either make or break this novel for readers. I, for one, unabashedly loved her. Her voice is strong and clear; I identified with and rooted for this intelligent and unique woman as she grapples with society's unforgiving attitudes, as she grows and learns about herself, Africa, and what she wants from her life. I loved Jane's strident attitudes, her analytical approach to any and all situations, her unflinching convictions and stalwart self-esteem. She's an unconventional woman for her time but not so much as to be entirely anachronistic for the era and setting the novel takes place during. She may eventually want a man, but unlike her society peers, she definitely doesn't need one. While her views and opinions can approach the unrealistic, the sincere motivations at the heart of Jane's actions ring true and keep her character from sticking out as improbable. An aspiring paleoanthropologist, the beginning flashbacks illustrate clearly how committed and devoted Jane is to her field and establish a more than credible reason for her journey to Africa and the events that transpire there.

The growing dynamic between Tarzan and his more "civilized" mate evolves maturely and with aplomb under less than ideal circumstances. Tarzan himself is a bit romanticized (both by Burroughs and by Maxwell here) - and the romance between him and Jane does provide a lot of internal debate for the title character - but he is realistic and engaging in his distant role. His relationship with Jane is complicated and hard-won, but it is a real partnership of equals, unlike what she could have expected back in her "civilized" home country. Theirs is a true give and take - each teaches the other essential skills for living in their respective worlds. Their interactions are a bit simpler and overcome more easily than I had expected (the language barrier most noticeably) but it doesn't jar too much. Under Maxwell's able hand as storyteller, the bits and pieces of Tarzan's tragic history and life are teased out into the more action packed events evenly and keep the sentimentality on par with the action and excitement of life as The Wild Ape Man.

The vibrant setting of Africa is one of the very best aspects of the novel. The place-as-character is superb here. It's really topnotch - from the port town of Libreville to the boat trip down the Mbele Ogowe River to the Great Bower, every scene and setting pops from the page with a burst of color. As one character so aptly said to Jane early on: "You do not live in Africa, my dear. Africa lives in you." Under Robin Maxwell's pen and talent, I certainly felt like I was seeing the jungles, forests, villages myself. This is a creative author with an obvious ability to set and describe a scene; her talent for place as character is one of the more prominent things I will take away from reading Jane. I haven't read many other historical novels set on this particular continent, but upon, reluctantly, concluding this one, I can't imagine I will wait long to search out another. Maxwell touches upon so many issues of that plagued continent - colonization by European powers, the deforestation of jungles for trade routes, King Leopold of Belgium's genocide of 10 million natives - that some areas do feel slightly shortchanged, but all serve to create an even bigger, more authentic view of Africa and its problems.


This is a book that started out good, one that easily progressed past my initial lukewarm feelings due a bit of an infodump and into "great" territory, and one that ends with a bang (and a hint at a possibility for more down the line?!). A clear departure both from its source material and the sanitized Disney version, Jane is no wilting violet but a strong protagonist with great depth and characterization, more than able to carry the weight of the novel on her own. A great read and reinvention of one of the most beloved stories, Jane is a credit to both Edgar Rice Burroughs' original tale and to Robin Maxwell's immense individual talent. With characters crafted so well, with vibrant settings and a plot that moves at a brisk and involving pace, this is a novel retelling that will stand out and stand the test of time equally well. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable -- those on the lookout for a new era/setting in historical fiction need look no further than Jane. ( )
  msjessie | Feb 4, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765333589, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Reimagines the classic story of Tarzan from Jane's perspective, following the only woman student in Cambridge's medical program as she travels the world to prove the theories of Darwin and finds love with an extraordinary man in the jungles of West Africa.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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