Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell is a feminine take on the famous Burroughs novel. This book tells the famous story from the view point of Jane Porter, Tarzan's love interest. It is not a retelling of the origin story of Tarzan, but a reimagining of the mythology originally created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Jane Porter is the first and only woman at the University of Cambridge to study medicine. She is a fish out of water and already an “old maid” being unmarried in her early twenties. An American explorer named Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father to join his West African expedition they both agree.
However, Ral Conrath has a secret, concerned more with making himself rich with gold, he couldn’t care less about their scientific pursuits. Soon Jane finds herself in danger and discovers that she has a secret admirer, a white man living in the jungle who is thought to be a legend.
I was very excited about this novel, Tarzan has always been a favorite (who can forget those wonderful comics and Johnny Weissmuller films?) and in preparation I read the original Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. To be honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book again (I read it as a kid), and I can certainly see why it is considered a classic and captures the imagination of the young and young at heart.
Reading the first several pages of Jane, I could tell that Jane would be different. The Jane Porter is this novel is a strong woman, a scientist and trail blazer. Jane tells her story, after a scientific presentation, to author Edgar Rice Burroughs. While this plot device might work, I thought it was a bit awkward especially when Jane, a scholar and an old fashioned woman (in today’s terms) describes intimate details about her relationship. I know very few, if any, women who even today would do so to a complete stranger.