At 60 Gay in Toronto, there lives a small girl whose spirit is being slowly crushed. Though she has her dear mother and friend Jody who lives next door to lighten her spirit occasionally, for the most part she is being suffocated by her severe grandmother, who obviously only barely tolerates Jane because she loves her mother. Cold, and possessed of a cutting cruelty that she often exercises on Jane, Grandmother rules her family with an iron fist, believing Jane to be small, stupid, and generally not worth bothering about. Then one day a letter comes with the post - a letter from Jane's father, long given up by her mother and disliked intensely by both grandmother and Jane herself, requesting Jane's presence for the summer. Afraid of legal action being taken - he is her father, after all - Grandmother allows her to go, and it is in on Prince Edward Island, with the dad that she loves as instantly as if she has always known him, that Jane truly begins to recover from the treatment of her grandmother and blossom into the young woman that she was always meant to be.
I am unequivocally and unashamedly in love with this book. I stated in my review of Emily of New Moon that I had trouble relating to the heroine after comparing her endlessly to Anne of Anne of Green Gables fame. I had no such problem with Jane. From the first moment, when Jane's small form appeared within the grandeur of 60 Gay, she was not to be compared with anyone else. Her journey from an emotionally starved little girl who can't find it in her to love or even like anybody because she has never had anyone who loved or liked her without reservation (aside from her mother of course, but her mother is kept from her as much as possible by the machinations of her grandmother, that miserable old bat) to one who knows what it is like to be beloved and therefore loves just as freely was wholly absorbing, and I am not ashamed to say that there were parts of the story that brought tears to my eyes. The beginning is so terribly sad that all I wanted was to jump into the story and hug Jane as hard as I could, to reassure her that someone did indeed love her. Of course, this makes the payoff of her entrance and acceptance into the P.E.I. crowd that much better. I loved that she came back from her summer with her dad poised and confident, no longer willing to meekly take what her grandmother was constantly dishing out. This book dealt with the issues that Anne merely touched on - we know that Anne is love-starved, but we are not shown. Jane shows, and it is just as devastating as Anne's hesitant hints to Marilla made it sound. Thankfully it is neither girl's fate to become a product of their harsh beginnings - instead they share the delightful fate of finding love and sweetness waiting for them, allowing them to grow into the beautiful, confident women that they were always meant to be. Jane has not replaced Anne in my heart - there is none that could do that - it may very well be that she has taken a place beside her, where I suspect she was always meant to be.