GENRE: Fiction, Urban Fiction, Realistic
My Rating: 5/5
I have always been fond of classics since my childhood. My library reading time was spent devouring illustrated classics when I was young, and the unabridged versions as I grew older. In ninth grade we were asked by our English teacher to do a book review on the book “Jane Eyre”. The left a deep impression in my mind and heart with its story of isolation, abandonment, deprivation and the journey of self discovery. Jane is not your quintessential heroine who serves as an ornamental piece to the hero. She is rather independent, fierce yet gentle, humble, a lady of principles, and someone who does not compromise on her self-respect or integrity for the bait of being married.
So when I got the ebook from Library Thing Early Reviewers I grabbed at it. As a self confessed bibliophile, there are many books I turn to when I seek advice or a reality check. Thus, the idea of the book not only fascinated me but I was also intrigued as to what was held between the pages. I was left feeling sore, tender and bruised as if been beaten in my guts. Dear Jane is written in the form of diary/journal entries which renders a personal and intimate feel. The reading feels as if you are audience to the life of the protagonist. I am still reeling under the effects of the book. At times I was crying inconsolably, and then there were times when the bile rose to my mouth making every ting taste acrid.
Similar to Jane Eyre, the cover has the image of a girl’s silhouette. The image seems of a girl tightly braided which resonates with the tightly contained soul. This book does make for not a cheerful or light reading. This is a raw story of Elecktra Koutros(nicknamed Kit Kat), a girl from Greece who lives a life of deprivation, child abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, extreme poverty, abandonment, before being adopted by a Greek American woman. The diary entries are her recounting of her life events. There are quotes from the book ‘Jane Eyre’ at the beginning of each chapter that helped Kit Kat connect to Jane through the diverse experiences of the character. Elecktra faces abuse from her own mother who is a prostitute and the man who poses as their protector is her pimp. Elecktra’s father gives up on the family when under rage his wife hits him with the heel of her sandal, fatally wounding him. He becomes partially blind. The pimp sexually abuses her mother and also Elecktra. She grows up in an environment of violence, abuse and poverty. She lives with her aunt for a while before being sent up for adoption. But the adoption is not the beginning of her fairy tale. Her new mother Ann, wants her to erase all her past and her memories. She even renames her Kathryn, trying to obliterate her past. You can mould a young child into someone you want, but the same cannot be done with a eight year old. This rebellion or defiance does not go well with Ann, and this strains the relationship. Instead of the love and acceptance she so earnestly seeks, she is further suppressed emotionally.
The story ends with a peak into harsh reality. Kit Kat moves out of her new mother’s house to create a life of her own. She decides to write her own narrative and become the author of her own story. The book does not give you happy ever after with a happy life for Elecktra, rather it ends on the note that we should live for ourselves.
“As the writer of my narrative, I write my own story, my way. Just like Jane. Just like you.”
This book has been unlike any other I’ve read. It is grave and full of brutalities, but one must admit that it’s the sad truth of many children around the world. Having read Jane Eyre I thoroughly enjoyed this books due to the literary analysis of Jane Eyre in comparison with Kit Kat’s life. Each event in Jane’s life find an echo in KitKat’s life and she finds solace in having someone who’s suffered like her. I think reading Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, prior to reading this book would be of huge help in understanding and comprehending the allusions. On the other hand, Dear Jane would make an exceptional companion piece when studying Jane Eyre to demonstrate how classic literature is still relevant in modern life. After reading this book, I think that some readers may consider reading Jane Eyre in order to find out more about this character who helped Kit Kat embrace herself and discover who she really is.
I loved the ending of the book the most. It is valid and plausible, just like the rest of the novel. Had there been a cinematic ending of happy rosy future the value of the book would have drastically reduced, and would have undermined the story. Dear Jane ends with optimism and a hope that will carve a niche for herself in this world.
As a warning this book will leave you with a feeling of loneliness and dejection. It is poignant and heart wrenching with an emotional impact, that will leave you gasping for air.
PS: PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU CANNOT STOMACH READING ABOUT SEXUAL VIOLENCE, CHILD ABUSE, AND OTHER BRUTAL TRUTHS.