Jane, the Fox and Me

Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault

Jane, the Fox and Me
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Jane, the Fox and Me

Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault

Helene is not free to hide from the taunts of her former friends in the corridors at school. She can’t be invisible in the playground or in the stairways leading to art class. Insults are even scribbled on the walls of the toilet cubicles. Helene smells, Helene’s fat, Helene has no friends … now.

When Helene’s heart hammers in her chest as Genevieve snickers at the back of the bus, inventing nasty things to say about her, Helene dives into the pages of her book Jane Eyre. And, in the solace she finds there, Helene’s own world becomes a little brighter. But how will the story end? Is there any hope for the wise, strange, plain Jane Eyre? How could Mr Rochester ever love her?

On nature camp, arranged by the school as a treat, Helene finds herself in the tent of other outcasts. Again, her inner and outer worlds become entangled as she reads on - this time putting herself into Jane Eyre’s shoes. It would be impossible for Mr Rochester to marry a sausage in a swimsuit, even if he loved her. Wouldn’t it?

But, while deeply lost in self-doubt, Helene’s world is unexpectedly shaken up by a fresh new friendship. Geraldine snorts with laughter at her jokes! They love being together! Helene begins to worry less about what the cruel girls think - and more about how happy she can be (and make others)… Perhaps Jane Eyre’s story will end well after all, too.

Review

I hardly know where to begin with this exceptional graphic novel about bullying, which is set in Quebec and has been translated from the original French. I’d like to frame its cover and put it on my bedroom wall. Does it make sense to describe the style as both elegant and crude? That’s how it appears to me; the plain sadness in the eyes of the main character is immediately affecting.

Hélène, who is permanently ostracised and cannot confide in anyone, finds herself in every bullied child’s nightmare: school camp. Things pan out as she expects them to – she’s alone, finds solace only in the pages of her current read, Jane Eyre, and is the object of derision – until a glimmer of hope that she’s not in fact repellent turns up in the form of a beautiful red fox. Although the fox doesn’t stay, it signals a positive change for Hélène.

Bookworms and loners of all ages will identify with Hélène. Readers of 9+ will love her idiosyncratic voice, thanks to a very sympathetic translation, but this is a book not just for children.

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