Title: Jane, Unlimited
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: Fantasy? Science Fiction? Mystery? ALL THE ABOVE? Also, YA
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Publication date: September 2017
If you could change your story, would you?
Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”
What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Print
Let me tell you about the coolest book I read all year. It’s been weeks since I read it and it is still with me in that way that truly great books are. I am SO excited about it and its unlimited sources of joy. Jane, Unlimited? IT IS PERFECT.
It starts out simple enough – then it branches out, literally into multiple possibilities. Jane, unlimited? Indeed.
But I am ahead of myself.
Here is how it starts:
Jane is a poor-young-orphaned girl, whose fortunes and misfortunes have shaped her life thus far: her parents died early on and she was brought up by her beloved Aunt Magnolia, someone who not only showered Jane with affection but also showed her the infinite possibilities of life. A wildlife photographer, Aunt Magnolia turned everything into an adventure and has inspired Jane into creating art too – Jane make umbrellas, each one of them uniquely concocted, perfectly shaped by her mood, beautifully crafted by hand.
But Aunt Magnolia died during her latest – last – expedition to Antarctica. Gone are the good times, and Jane’s life has fallen into hard times, working at a bookstore after being forced to quit college, bereft with a grief that is still new and raw.
But then one day, the unexpected happens: the glamorous and super rich Kiran Thrash, Jane’s older tutor, walks back into her life. Upon hearing about Jane’s woes, Kiran – daughter of privilege – spontaneously invites Jane to quit everything (like it is so simple) and come over to her family home, Tu Reviens, an island-based mansion where a Gala will take place soon. The idea is for Jane to take some time off, to work on her art, to work through her grief. And if at first, Jane is taken aback by the invitation… well. Wouldn’t you?
But then Jane remembers that just before leaving on her trip to Antarctica, Aunt Magnolia said to her:
“If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”
And Jane, unable to say no to the memory of Aunt Magnolia, goes with Kiran to Tu Reviens.
Upon arriving at the house/mansion/stronghold, the first thing that jumps at her is the house itself. A blend of styles, with entire fixtures brought from other houses (from other times) and incredible pieces of art, Tu Reviens feels mysterious and grand and beautiful and full of potential.
And then there are the people. Over the course of a couple of days, Jane meets and entangles with the people of Tu Reviens and witnesses them in their own little worlds, their happiness and grievances – their little mysteries. Here’s Kiran and her art dealer boyfriend Colin as well as the mysterious Patrick, one of the staff, whom Kiran has known all her life, whom she potentially loves but his past as well as mysterious demeanour has kept them separated. Patrick keeps saying that he will tell her all of his secrets but will he really? Patrick’s sister is the adorable (but also secretively cagy) Ivy, whom Jane is immediately attracted to just as Jane is also entranced by Kiran’s twin brother, the art-lover, pansexual Ravi who in turn, starts to wonder about a missing piece of art, a Fish sculpture and just you wait until he finds out that the family’s Vermeer painting is a fake – a fact discovered by the housekeeper/art connoisseur Mrs. Vanders, who seems to have known Aunt Magnolia, somehow? And what’s up with the little girl that Jane keeps seeing, and what on Earth happened to Charlotte, the twins’ stepmother who suddenly disappeared one day leaving their father Octavian lost, sad and effectively a recluse, and then of course we have the twin’s quantum physicist mother who still lives at Tu Reviens but never leaves her rooms even though she seems to be gone a lot, and why is Jasper, their dog, so spellbound with Jane? Who is playing The Beatles late at night, why is Patrick meeting with the shady Gala guest who obviously lied to Jane about being a germophobe, and oh god, is Ivy lying too?
And then at the end of the first part, just as a bell rings somewhere, Jane has a myriad of choices ahead of her. Should she go with Kiran to the library? Should she go talk to Mrs Vanders and ask about Aunt Magnolia? Should she follow the little girl back into the garden and find out who she is? Should she give in to Ravi’s seduction – but what about Ivy? Or should she follow Jasper the dog wherever he wants to take her?
What happens next is a delightful, exciting, choose-your-own-adventure with a twist: every choice, a new chapter. Every new chapter, a different genre: a crime mystery, a spy thriller, a horror story, a science fiction caper in space and finally, a portal fantasy. All of them excellent, engaging, super well done as examples of their genres but also in the way that they eventually form a whole – a whole that is still full of fractures and enigmas and no easy answers.
Throughout the chapters, the stories entangle, branching in and out. Some scenes are repeated but from different angles, with different details, and different endings, all providing a different insight into the characters and the mysteries. This is a book brimming with possibilities and open to interpretation 1 and it’s all so cool and beautiful, hopeful, romantic!
And with great attention to awesome little details that made the book for me: like for example, in every chapter, Jane creates a new, different umbrella – most of them inspired by a different feeling. Similarly Jane always remains true to herself throughout even if she is in a voyage of self-discovery. One of the recurring threads, something that is always there, is her grief over Aunt Magnolia, a grief that is almost palpable.
Jane, Unlimited is unlike any book I’ve read before and with a great voice, an awesome cast of characters I’ve come to care for (including Jasper, the best dog in the world) plus a story about choice and chance and opportunity and grief.
This is absolutely one of my favourite books of the year. I want everybody to read it.
Rating: 10 – Absolutely amazing and a top 10 of the year
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- SPOILER: are these all different realities? Different worlds? Heck, I am not even entirely convinced that Jane, our Jane, is even in our universe given how she talks about a BLUE KERMIT ↩