I just finished reading Re Jane by Patricia Park a few days ago. The one that I wished I did before reading it was probably to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte again before tearing right into this book. I haven’t read Jane Eyre in years ever since I was in high school. We covered the Bronte’s sisters other works in college. What pains me is that we never spend enough time dissecting some of the books we cover in school which unjust. I will be comparing Jane Eyre to Re Jane based on what I remember about the book.
Re Jane started off as a really down to earth book putting a huge emphasize on cultural differences and self searching of one’s self. It pulled me right in with its easy going style of writing and vibrant details of Flushing, New York. The visual details were very sharp and the emotional details were beautifully inserted in between. Park tells from Jane’s point of view of how immigrants are in America especially Asian immigrants. How they open their own laundry shops, grocery stores, body shops, trying to fit in and make a living. It was very heart touching and relatable to me because though I was born in Chicago, my parents came to the U.S. as immigrants and it was like watching how they may have struggled too. Throughout the entire book Park bounces back and forth between the two different cultures of americans and asians. Park shows how girls in asian families are meant to be raised according to their culture, obedient, submitting, humble, no back talk, and to not dishonor their family. Whereas in the character Devon, who is the adopted daughter of Beth and Ed has the freedom to do as she pleases as long as Beth allows and is able to talk back and question her adoptive parents.
In Jane Eyre, Jane is seen as an enlightened women who wants to free enslaved woman from the male despotism. She wants to preach liberty to women who are enslaved. She wants women to become greater than their male counterparts. Now in Re Jane, Beth is the feminist in the story and she is constantly proving her dominance, her success, her strength, her power, over her husband and daughter. She tries to influence Jane in the book and I believe that it doesn’t have much of an effect from my understanding. Jane sees Beth as the one ruining the family with her inflexible personality.
In terms of how love plays out in Re Jane, Jane falls for Ed Farley which is no surprise to be as Jane fell for Rochester in Jane Eyre. The love relationship in Re Jane between Ed and Jane is love that is driven by passion and the love they have for each other from those late night heroes in the kitchen, the understanding they shared about each other’s troubles when dealing with Beth. Jane is roughly ten years younger than Ed. Jane always complained how Ed seemed to have already done so much in life and she hadn’t done anything because her family had kept her tied down for so many years. Jane seemed jealous at some times during the book of how experienced Ed was and she hadn’t experienced anything on her own. This is the main and constant problem between Ed and Jane. Jane is independent and strong and wants to go out into the world and see for herself for what the world has to offer. Ed is scared of losing her as he is always portrayed by Park as the one who is clingy and claiming he couldn’t live without her. He has already experienced his youth and is ready to settle down with Jane but Jane is not. She still has so much she wants to do that she is sad that Ed doesn’t understand. Jane wants to be respected and wants Ed to see eye to eye with her but when he doesn’t she knew that it was over. No matter how right something felt with someone, as long as the timing was wrong and place was wrong then it was never going to work. If Jane had been older or experienced much more, perhaps it would have worked out.
There was another love interest in Seoul named Changhoon for Jane when she was there. I really loved their little love story there but Jane was only using Changhoon as a temporary replacement for what happened with Ed. She didn’t really love him and he was the perfect guy in every aspect. What made me almost cry was when Jane said she couldn’t marry him and he said he loved her so much and was saddened that she didn’t love him enough. He asked if she could try a little harder but Jane said no. This is a good lesson for everyone that when you really love someone, anyone else you date no matter how perfect they are is never enough for you and you can never love them as you love who you truly love. Do not settle for what appears before you but follow what your heart wants.
My favorite character…would have to be Nina who is Jane’s good friend. Nina is the same age as Jane and started off as a really airy and loud girl who always challenged Jane to change and improve on herself. Nina helped her build self-confidence and self-will something that Jane’s family took away from her. Nina’s character breaks when she breaks up with her boyfriend. Nina becomes more mature and advises Jane to stop lying to herself about the feelings she had for Ed. Nina stood by Jane through more difficult times as one and she’s just amazing and is similar to a mentor for Jane in my opinion.
All the characters in this book is amazing and are so surreal. An amazing contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre. Park’s style of storytelling is lively and humorous, serious and heartbreaking when needed. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in a light read but with a meaningful life lesson in it.