Here’s our spoiler-free review of The Private Life of Jane Maxwell by Jenn Gott. Get your copy by becoming a member today and then join us in the member portal to get your questions answered by Jenn!
When recently-widowed Jane Maxwell is fired form her job as comics creator, she thinks she’ll never see her characters, the Heroes of Hope, face their greatest challenge yet–until they appear in front of her, asking for her help.
Jane learns that in a parallel universe, the Heroes of Hope are not comics characters, but living, breathing superheroes. That includes her parallel-self, complete with superpowers. But the parallel-Jane is missing, and the Heroes need help to retrieve her, and deal with the biggest foe they’ve encountered yet.
Jane isn’t ready to be a hero, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. The much harder challenge will be keeping her composure around Amy, the parallel version of Jane’s dead wife.
Here’s the breakdown using our scale:
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt, Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts, Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
Jane Maxwell is our window into this world, and she is surrounded by female relationships. Literally, since she has to navigate both her “real life” relationships, and the parallel ones. The familial relationships (including a mother and a sister) are difficult, but they are nothing compared to Jane seeing the parallel of her deceased wife. Jane fumbles her way through these interactions with…mixed results, but she is honest and well-intentioned. This book easily passes the Bechdel-Wallace test and is not offensive.
I also wanted to note The Private Life of Jane Maxwell has a lot of characters, so not all of them are fully fleshed out, but I like that too. Women being background characters is another form of equality.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
This is a superhero novel so there better be action, and there is!
When Jane and her friends are young, they venture into an old warehouse and get electrocuted. In Jane’s world, nothing much comes of this. But she turns the experience into part of the origin story for her comic creations. The Private Life is Jane’s origin story, from the struggle to learn about her new powers to the drama of the personal relationships affected by her superhero life. In the way of good storytelling, the tropes feel familiar, but not overdone. Since my favorite parts were at the end, I can’t tell them to you! But suffice to say the final twist was so bold I knew this had to be our next BOM!
Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts
We all have a problematic fave, and for a lot of us, it’s the superhero movie. Every marginalized group has loved the action and adventure of the Marvel blockbuster, while simultaneously begging on bended knee for something equally cool that also shows a little diversity.
With The Private Life of Jane Maxwell, you don’t need to beg. Jenn Gott puts a wide representation of characters front and center in her story. The main character, Jane, is an adult out lesbian, and while we get to hear her coming-out story, the strife comes less from social pressures and more from the memory of Jane’s now-deceased childhood love/future wife. If you’re in the mood for a story where a queer character’s queerness isn’t a focal point, this is the novel for you.
The dedication in The Private Life of Jane Maxwell reads “To all the forgotten women who’ve helped shape the world of comic books since the art form began.” I think that’s a great message. We shouldn’t forget who in the past got us here, and we shouldn’t settle for less when there are so many women creators and women’s stories around us now. I’m sure The Private Life of Jane Maxwell will soon become one of your non-problematic faves.
Watch The Private Life of Jane Maxwell book trailer: