Read This Book

Read This Book: Re Jane by Patricia Park

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is one of my favorite contemporary classics retellings!

Re Jane by Patricia Park

Jane Re is a Korean-American orphan who has been brought up by her demanding and judgmental Korean aunt and uncle in Queens, New York. Lately she’s been her time working in their Korean grocery, despite having a college degree, because the economy tanked and she lost the job she had lined up after graduation. Desperate to get out, she takes a job as a live-in nanny to a wealthy Brooklyn family, the Mazer-Farleys. They consist of two white professors and their adopted Chinese daughter, and Jane is annoyed that they expect her, a Korean-American woman, to teach their Chinese daughter about Asian culture, but she loves the freedom of being away from her family and being surrounded by the quiet affluence of her new Brooklyn neighborhood. She finds the mother rather odd, as she spends all her time in her attic study when she’s not lecturing Jane about feminism, but Jane is drawn to the father, and it’s not long before a dangerous affair sparks between the two of them.

But just as Jane crosses a line, she spooks and seizes the first opportunity to flee New York and travel to Seoul. There, she reconnects with her extended family, digs deeper into her mother’s past, and starts building a new life for herself. But is Korea truly home?

I thought this was a really clever and interesting retelling of Jane Eyre. It’s set during the turn of the millennium, and it’s really full of lush and vibrant setting details that really made the story come alive. Jane’s naivety may make some readers cringe, but this is a coming of age story that looks closely at what it means to be biracial and grow up entrenched in two very different cultures, and I both learned a lot and felt myself identifying with Jane’s aimlessness and desperate hope for a purpose. Park addresses a lot of the problematic bits of the source material in really interesting and surprising ways, and I found myself flipping the pages not because I wanted to know if the romance would play out, but because I wanted to see what life would look like for Jane when she finally reclaimed her life and found her strength. I was definitely not disappointed!

Happy reading!

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