Thursday 26 October 2017

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin @gabriellezevin @LittleBrownUK #YoungJaneYoung

Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida, makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss - who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married - and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn't take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late-night talk show punchline; she is slut-shamed, labelled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.
How does one go on after this? In Aviva's case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She starts over as a wedding planner, tries to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident.
But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. These days, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you've done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it's only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane's daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin was published on 22 August 2017 by Algonquin Books / Little Brown UK.

I really love Gabrielle Zevin's writing, and have read her young adult stories as well as her adult fiction. Her last novel, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is one of my all-time favourites, I reviewed it here on Random Things some time ago.

Young Jane Young is a very topical read, it just so happens that as I was reading it, the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, never has my reading so well reflected the current news. The women who have bravely spoken out about Weinstein have been trolled and ridiculed; people don't believe them, and the greatest tragedy is that people blame them. Young Jane Young deals with those themes.

Jane Young was once Aviva Grossman. She's now Jane Young because years ago, as a young intern, she fell in love. She fell in love with the married Congressman that she was working for.  The press found out when they were involved in a car accident, and Aviva was shamed and banished, whilst the Congressman carried on with his career, and his marriage after repenting publicly. Sound familiar?

The story is narrated by four women. These characters are amazing. Gabrielle Zevin's skill in creating characters is outstanding, they are perfectly formed; flawed at times, but their voices are strong and so incredibly compelling.

Rachel, Aviva's mother is hilarious; she's the stereotypical Jewish mother, relating her own story, and Aviva's story whilst dealing with her own relationships at the same time. I doubt that there is a reader who will not fall instantly in love with Rachel as she relates her tale, with dry humour and a hint of sadness.

The reader also hears the story told by Aviva/Jane herself, her young daughter Ruby and the Congressman's wife Embeth. All of these narratives are cleverly put together, but I had a soft spot for young Ruby who has to deal with learning about her mother's background and realising that her life has been a lie for many years.

Young Jane Young is a sweeping, unforgettable novel that raises questions about our culture, and how women are treated and scandalised and shamed. It is full of love, longing and loss, with huge emotion and tenderness throughout the story. The subtle wit is energising, adding depth to both the plot and the characters.

Once more, Gabrielle Zevin has delivered a novel that I adored. It is skilled, perceptive and really quite wonderful.

(Photo credit: Aaron Eckhart)

Gabrielle lives in New York City. She is the author of two books for young adults, Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, as well as an adult book, Margarettown.

Gabrielle is also the author of the screenplay for the film Conversations With Other Women, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

Find out more at
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @gabriellezevin

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