The old “Me Tarzan, You Jane” dynamic established in Johnny Weismuller movies gets a radical update by shining the spotlight on adventuress Jane Porter.
The author fully reinvents the character of Jane Porter, so often the “damsel-in-distress,” by making her a budding paleoanthropologist and giving her good reasons to explore the wilds of Africa. At 20-something, Porter is considered a spinster by her family, save her beloved father, a fellow scientist. They’re both intrigued when American Ral Conrath invites them to join an expedition to West Africa, luring them in with tales of the apelike, croc-killing creature with white skin. A neatly framed narrative finds Jane recounting her story to budding storyteller Burroughs during an encounter in Chicago in 1912. Meanwhile, flashbacks to 1905 find a rifle-wielding Jane nearly shooting Ral Conrath, a cad and corrupt treasure hunter, before falling into the arms of the missing Lord Greystoke and his tribal comrades (it’s worth using the Mangani-English glossary helpfully included). Maxwell ticks all the boxes, including offering up a hunky Tarzan, primeval jungle life and a bit of tasteful lust on Jane’s part. “You do not live in Africa, my dear,” she’s warned. “Africa lives in you.” Jane Goodall and Isak Dinesen would be right at home with Miss Jane Porter.
A respectful, exciting and disarming update of one of the last century’s most oft-told tales.