Robin Maxwell’s retelling of Tarzan of the Apes from Jane’s point of view is available today via print version and eBook. Here is the link to the Amazon hard copy: Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan at Amazon. And here is the link to the eBook at the Kindle store: Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan on eBook.
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 originalTarzan of the Apes.
At the publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
And here’s a nice article by Robin at Erbzine: Jane, Queen of the Jungle.
Congrats to Robin and good luck with the book! I see that there are 18 reviews on Amazon already — that means someone is reading it (and the reviews are favorable, 4+!).
In fact, I’ll risk getting whacked by Amazon and put some of the reviews here — hey, I’m trying to generate sales for Amazon, so why would they care?
Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan / 978-0765333599
I picked this up because while I haven’t read the original “Tarzan of the Apes”, I have seen several movie renditions and I feel like the underlying fantasy of Tarzan and Jane is incredibly compelling. (Plus, look at that cover. That cover should win an award, if it hasn’t already.) So I was expecting a nice action tale with a fresh-and-feminist narrative viewpoint.
And, well, I got that — but it took a long time to get there.
My copy of this book weighs in at a reasonable ~300 pages, but this feels like one of the longer books I’ve read in awhile. The pacing at the beginning is slow enough that several times I was tempted to give up, and it’s not until about the halfway point that things really picked up for me. Tarzan himself doesn’t even appear until page 130, outside of a few brief tantalizing flashbacks that interrupt the narrative of the “main” flashback.
And I think I’ll take this moment to register a quibble. This book starts with Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the original Tarzan stories, as a character in the book, and the whole story is told to him by a ‘Real Life’ Jane. I’m not really a fan of this kind of plot device; no one is going to be fooled into thinking this was the ‘real’ origin of the Tarzan story, and the whole thing is largely vestigial: an opening and closing chapter that weakly attempt to explain why this version and the original version don’t align neatly.
This flimsy explanation was not, in my opinion, necessary — and raises more questions than answers in my mind. I don’t know if the author genuinely thought this attempt at melding the old and the new was a good idea, or if this was insisted upon by Burroughs’ estate, but it feels very clunky — especially when things get hot-and-steamy and the reader is forced to remember that Jane is narrating extremely intimate details of her sex life to a complete stranger so that he can write it all down as a fictional story.
Anyway, returning to the narrative, once Tarzan enters the picture, things pick up — but it’s not a race to the finish by any means. There are long periods of teaching, learning, training, and diary reading, and finally I realized that this isn’t an adventure book. It’s more of a romance novel slash world building novel set against the lush backdrop of the Tarzan mythos. And once I realized that, I was still able to enjoy the book even though it wasn’t quite what I’d expected going in. Tarzan and Jane are larger than life characters, and the prose here is gorgeous, so I enjoyed the book, if not always the pace.
Other things I liked about this novel: I liked the character growth of Jane (once we got out of the first 100 pages which made me uncomfortable with all the repeated comparisons to her ‘natural’ beauty against the ‘artificial’ beauty of Every Other Woman in England). I liked how well the fantasy of Tarzan as a person is handled here; he’s equal parts vulnerable and powerful, and the fantasy is played to the hilt. I liked that there’s a very real and actually pretty decent discussion here about privilege and prejudice, as Jane acknowledges that she has both and works hard to overcome the latter and not be judgmental of other cultures. (She even comes to realize that the Primitive Savage concept is more complicated than that, which I thought was nice in a property that ultimately hinges on that fantasy.) I liked that there are plenty of people of color in this novel, and they are portrayed (in my opinion) with respect and depth of character.
I do recommend this book for climbing into the fantasy of Tarzan and living for a few sweet hours. Twice during my time with this novel, I set it down and popped in one of the two Tarzan movies I own, just to see the visuals and dwell in the experience. If that reinforces my gripe about the slow pacing, it will hopefully also underscore that there’s a lot here to be savored. If you can bear a slow pace for an emotionally fulfilling payoff, then I can recommend this book.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve never read the original Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I have seen the movies starring Johnny Weismulller and Maureen O’Sullivan. I know, not the best way to be introduced to the series considering how much the books were changed from page to screen, I’d imagine, but you’ve got to admit, Weismuller’s Tarzan created quite an impression in the cultural consciousness. So, since I haven’t read the books, I don’t know how Burroughs portrayed Jane, but I would imagine in not the most flattering of ways–a lot of cowering, crying, and “Oh, Tarzan, help me!” So it was rather exciting to see a book about Jane which both told the Tarzan story from her perspective and was also written by a woman. Even better, the novel is authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, meaning the author couldn’t just slap something together and call it a story of Jane.
In 1905, intelligent, headstrong, adventurous Jane Porter is a fish out of water at the University of Cambridge, not to mention an unabashed ‘old maid’. Happiest when she’s at her father’s side, studying anatomy and dissecting corpses, she’s the only female student at Cambridge’s medical program as well as a budding paleoanthropologist. She idolizes female explorers such as Mary Kingsley and yearns to one day prove Darwin’s theory that the human race came out of Africa. So when an American adventurer named Ral Conrath invites her and her father to join his expedition to West Africa, she naturally jumps at the chance. When they reach that ‘Dark Continent’ and begin their trek into its interior, it’s just as marvelous and exotic as Jane had imagined. Mother Africa’s jungles also hide dark secrets… and so does Ral Conrath. When Jane and her father find themselves in peril, Jane discovers the one thing which will turn her entire world upside-down: Tarzan of the Apes.
This is not an adventure novel. This is a romance novel with some adventure sprinkled in, and those adventures, except for the last act, come in between a lot of discourse: Jane reminiscing about her life in England, Jane narrating her travels in Africa, Jane and Tarzan discovering Tarzan’s past. It’s only in the last third of the book that we stop reflecting on the past and concentrate on “here and now” actions. The amount of reminiscent narration might be difficult for some, especially those who are anticipating a pure adventure novel mirroring the original Tarzan novels. However, I found the background stories just as interesting as the main one and didn’t have a problem with the lack of “non-stop” action.
What I did have a problem with was the third act reveal, the big denouement that all the previous archaeological and anthropological discoveries had been leading up to. I’ll be honest, when I saw a YouTube video of Maxwell speaking about this book and her inclusion of the “Missing Link” as a plot point, I rolled my eyes. Then, as I read, I discovered it actually worked; after all, it’s not like the story of Tarzan is super-realistic, so why not included a living missing link? I eventually got on board with it. But I could not swallow the finale. ***SPOILER AHEAD–READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!***Basically, Maxwell writes about an ancient Egyptian wonder, buried within the depths of a volcano, accessible through a crude yet abundant gold mine. This wonder, a three-thousand-room ancient Egyptian labyrinth, was supposedly visited by Herodotus and written about in his Histories. As they move through the cave, they see frescoes and murals of amazing complexity, of celestial bodies, the moon in its phases, the planets of the solar system, of geological features both native to Africa and foreign such as arctic wastes and snowy peaks, not to mention a map which looks amazingly modern. That alone is, well, laughable; the Egyptians were an amazing race of people, able to create and do many, many things. But arctic explorers? Diviners of celestial phenomenon thousands of years before we had the ability to see that far into space? Um… no. But that’s not all; this “New Egypt” in West Africa also contains a library which equals, if not excels, the library at Alexandria. Oh, yeah, and a dissection laboratory, with knives and probes, and an image painted on the wall of a Caucasian man, his skin flayed, his torso opened, with his muscles and organs depicted perfectly. Good grief! Did they also discover penicillin and the DNA sequence and the cure for polio and mumps as well?***END SPOILER*** It was just too ridiculous, too over-the-top. It was as if Maxwell suddenly channeled H. Rider Haggard for the last act, which would’ve been fine, actually, and quite in the spirit of Burrough’s original novels. But it wasn’t in the spirit or tone of the novel Maxwell had written up to that point. Up ’til then, Jane was quite grounded, relatively speaking, giving a nice reality to the story and character of Jane Porter. To me, the third act just felt like a huge stumble.
Until that stumble, I was quite impressed with Maxwell’s writing. When I got the book, I opened it up to the first page, just to glance at it before putting the book down to be read at a later date. I never put it down; instead, I kept on reading… and reading. The writing caught my attention immediately. Jane Porter is a fun and interesting character; yes, she’s a modern woman, which may ordinarily be out of place in an historical romance, but here it’s just fine. The early 20th century was all about the modern woman, so Jane’s ambitions and character traits aren’t at all unusual. The prose is dynamic, with action and drama scenes both having a real sense of depth and emotion; the dialogue is compelling, though it does tend to get a bit overdone in Ral Conrath’s case, as if to really point up the fact that, when he does show himself to be the villain of the novel, we know absolutely that he’s “The Villain.” I think what Maxwell did best was show the evolution of Jane; even though she considered herself an independent woman, out in the jungle she realized just how sheltered she’d been. Watching her grow in both physical and mental strength, seeing her conquer her fears and doubts, not to mention those prejudices and assumptions which had been ingrained in her was, I think, the true force of the novel. Yeah, the romance which developed between her and Tarzan was compelling, but not as much as Jane’s maturation as a person.
It may sound weird, but I really enjoyed the part of the story when Jane, who is injured when she first meets Tarzan and is rescued by him, questions how her bodily functions were taken care of during her unconsciousness, and recognizes how Tarzan took care of them while caring for her. It’s kind of a gross subject, sure, but one that’s nearly always glossed over in fiction, even though it’s a normal human behavior. That Maxwell included it is rather brave of her, I thought.
The story is book-ended by the appearance of Edgar Rice Burroughs himself. When we first see Jane, it’s through Edgar’s eyes as he watches her give a lecture on the missing link she found during her African adventure. When he, rather fan-boy-like, introduces himself to her and asks to hear her story, Jane begins to tell it both to him and to us. At the end of the story, we come back to Edgar as he ponders what he heard. Jane gives him permission to tell her story in whatever way he sees fit, giving Maxwell the out she needed in order to have “her” Jane do things differently from “Edgar’s” Jane. As the novel wraps up, Edgar is already reweaving Jane’s tale into the Tarzan books with which history is familiar, which ties both versions together neatly.
In the end, up until the last act, I truly enjoyed the novel. I felt it kept the spirit of the original (as far as I could tell) while infusing it with a breath of fresh air. If that climax just hadn’t been quite so eye-rolling….
My exposure to the story of Tarzan has been limited because I simply have never cared about any story about a big strong man protecting a tiny, weak woman. Fast forward to two weeks ago and I was offered the book “Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan” through the Amazon Vine program and I hit the “send me this book” button without hesitation. Robin Maxwell is one of my favorite authors and I was certain any book by her would be worth reading.
This book is a retelling of the Tarzan tale from the perspective of Jane. We meet Jane in 1912 while she is speaking to an audience about the existence of the “missing link” in human evolution. After this disastrous event ends she is approached by the author Edgar Rice Burroughs. They form a friendship and Jane tells Mr. Burroughs the story of how she and Tarzan met in the jungle and what happened to them afterwards.
I did enjoy the book but there were a few things that didn’t work for me. First, the book is too long and too detailed. At times the story drags and I had to skip ahead a few pages to stay interested. The other, more serious, issue is that Jane gives details of the story that no well bred woman of the time would disclose to a virtual stranger. She discusses with him the details of her intimacy with Tarzan and I don’t believe that Jane would do this. I also didn’t believe it when Jane tells Burroughs to write the story and encourages him to embellish as he sees fit. No sane person tells this important story of their life and then encourages a writer to change it at will.
I still believe that “Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan” is a book worth reading and I loved this kick-ass, highly intelligent version of Jane but I do feel the book could have benefited by better editing.
Arguably, the most iconic figures in fiction would be Sherlock Holmes, Superman, James Bond, Dracula and Tarzan. With the exception of Bond, all these characters have their counterparts who almost as famous: Holmes has Watson, Superman has Lois Lane, Dracula has Van Helsing, and for Tarzan there is the title character in Robin Maxwell’s book, Jane.
This story opens with a 1912 encounter between Jane Porter and Edgar Rice Burroughs; the two hit it off and she relates to him the tale that will form the majority of the book. In 1905, Jane is an aspiring scientist whose views of equality put her at odds with her mother and with English society (not to mention threatening to make her a spinster at the ancient age of 20). She and her similarly-minded father meet the dashing Ral Cornath, who convinces the pair to go to Africa in search of a missing link.
Cornath’s charms are all superficial; in reality, he’s a vicious treasure-seeker out for gold and to assist the murderous Belgian regime in getting a trade route to the West African coast. Jane realizes this too late, and Cornath disposes of her by leaving her as helpless prey for a leopard. She is assumed dead, but in reality, she has been rescued by the mythical white ape who is Tarzan.
Most of the rest of the book is the interaction between the pair as she teaches him English and their bond turns to love. For those familiar with Burroughs’s books, the story is very familiar, though told differently. Life in the jungle may be idyllic, but there will be the inevitable reckoning with Cornath.
As with many iconic characters, Tarzan and Jane can often transform average storytelling into something more interesting; such is the case here. On the plus side, it’s obvious that Maxwell has affection for the source material and is not just trying to write a politically correct response to Burroughs (whose views, while generally progressive, are very much a product of their times). And while she is competent enough to make a generally good story, at times her abilities falter with some of the worst traits of historical romance writing (which is not a knock on the genre, but like all genres, it has its weak points).
Also, there are times when Maxwell seems to forget that this story is supposed to be told to Burroughs by Jane, not merely something he’d have read. Therefore, Jane shouldn’t need to explain certain things that she knows her listener would know (for example, what an episcope (an early overhead projector) is, when she just was with him when one was used). Flaws aside, this is generally a fun book, as one would hope from a Tarzan story; it’s just not a perfect one.
I’ve never been an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. It’s not the writer’s fault. I’ve never been big into the classics. Movies and television series based on the Tarzan character are another story entirely and this is what piqued my interest. A story through Jane’s point of view–how cool is that?
Robin Maxwell begins Jane’s story with the voice of Edgar Rice Burroughs, detailing how he met Jane Porter at the Chicago Public Library in 1912. Jane agrees to meet with Edgar to tell him the story of her expedition to West Africa where she meets Tarzan.
My favorite part involves Tarzan. No surprise there, but the story lagged a bit at the beginning with Jane’s struggles over no equality for women and not wanting a traditional path in life. Once the expedition was underway, I had to force myself to slow down so that I could take in the details of the jungle, the Waziri tribe, Jane’s discovery of the Mangani, and the relationship formed between Tarzan and Jane.
The ending left came a bit too soon for me–for Edgar too. He still had many questions. The author leaves readers feeling there could be another book. The conversation between Jane and Edgar was clear. The story isn’t over yet.
I remember reading somewhere that Edgar Rice Burroughs was never satisfied with Jane as a suitable mate for Tarzan. I had a hard time believing that since he was the one who created her. He could have given her traits that would have made her a superb mate for Tarzan. At any rate, Robin Maxwell has created a Jane who is Tarzan’s equal in every way. I suppose it takes a woman to write a strong woman. Also you have to take into account that when ERB wrote Tarzan a hundred years ago the role of women in society was much more submissive. Times have changed. Maxwell also took creative license with ERB’s discovery of Tarzan in the jungle. In ERB’s version Tarzan is discovered by D’Arnot, a Frenchman who became his lifelong friend. In Maxwell’s story it is Jane who is the first white person to encounter Tarzan. Okay. But it’s unfortunate that D’Arnot’s character is so weak in this story. He was much more noble in ERB’s version. Also Maxwell uses another ERB character, Ral Conrath. In several Tarzan novels Conrath was Tarzan’s bitter enemy. He remains disreputable in Maxwell’s tale so he’s believable. Oops! I was thinking of another Tarzan villain, Nikolas Rokoff. Ral Conrath is Ms. Maxwell’s creation. JANE is well-written and highly enjoyable. It begins slowly but builds in suspense and excitement. An adventure in the jungle worth experiencing.
I actually enjoyed reading this book–strong female lead and new perspective on the Tarzan stories I grew up with. I read this book in one evening. Once I started it, didn’t want to put it down until done.
Robin Maxwell has done both a thrilling and charming job of giving us Jane’s saga with Tarzan. As other reviewers have noted, the tale moves slowly at the beginning, but the details add the “why” of how the plight came to be. For a adventure/fantasy, it was plausible and believable up to the last word. This one is a treat worth waiting all these years to savor, but now is the time.
As soon as I saw Jane Goodall’s enthusiastic recommendation for this retelling of Tarzan from Jane’s point of view I knew I had to read it. In this version set in the early 1900’s Jane is a lively, adventuresome young women determined to challenge the conventions of the day by becoming a scientist. Her heroes are women like Mary Kingsley, the Victorian era African explorer, and Jane and her father head to Africa seeking fossil evidence of Darwin’s missing link between ape and man. Unfortunately their African expedition is led by a man who turns out to be a ruthless treasure hunter, and when things go horribly wrong and Jane is attacked by a leopard she wakes up high in a jungle canopy nest under the care of Tarzan.
At first Jane is completely dependent on Tarzan, but when her wounds heal she learns to run along tree branches, swing from vines, hunt for food and wrestle. After figuring out how to communicate, Tarzan teaches Jane the ways of the jungle and she tells him about the wider world. For an adventure story this is not breathlessly paced, but it’s rich with setting details and character backstories. Both Jane and Tarzan have discoveries to make and family to avenge. In a funny, ingenious twist the novel is written as if Jane is recounting her story to Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, and he appears as a character at the beginning and end of the book. Loved it.