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Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Biographical > B01G7EU8FE
  1. Miss Jane: A Novel
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  2. Miss Jane: A Novel

    Delivery: 10-20 Working Days
    Customer Ratings (114 reviews)
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Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction: Astonishing prose brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a strange and bittersweet Southern pastoral.

Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson has been expanding the literary traditions of the South, in work as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America.

Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage. From the highly erotic world of nature around her to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the country doctor who befriends her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, Miss Jane Chisolm and her world are anything but barren.

The potency and implacable cruelty of nature, as well as its beauty, is a trademark of Watson’s fiction. In Miss Jane, the author brings to life a hard, unromantic past that is tinged with the sadness of unattainable loves, yet shot through with a transcendent beauty. Jane Chisolm’s irrepressible vitality and generous spirit give her the strength to live her life as she pleases in spite of the limitations that others, and her own body, would place on her. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.

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Brad Watson
Kindle Edition
Kindle eBook
W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company
W. W. Norton & Company
Most Helpful Customer Reviews

In a novel sure to draw initial comparisons with Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Brad Watson imagines the life of a woman with a difference so great that it has the power to leave her feeling utterly alone in the world. Comparisons with Middlesex are warranted, Jane is conceived in a, let’s say baleful coupling, and though she appears in nearly every way to be a normal child there is one great difference that will result in a lifetime of being an outsider.

Comparisons between the two novels should stop there. Miss Jane is not in any way derivative, and in fact Watson has drawn on the true life experiences of his own Great Aunt who suffered from the exact condition described in the novel. The result is a heartfelt exploration of loneliness, acceptance and happiness expertly guided by a taut prose that seems to own the language and experience of those times.

I don’t plan to reveal any more about Jane’s problem except to say that is a... Read more
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
This is a truly unique novel, based on the life of the author’s great aunt. Jane, born with a rare congenital deformity, must learn love, trust, strength and self- reliance in order not just to survive her condition, but to live well in the world. Along the way she is helped most by her country doctor, who monitors her condition, checking in frequently with a specialist he knows in hope of finding a treatment for Jane’s condition. He is also her closest friend and mentor throughout most of her life.

Jane is a very intelligent young girl; prevented by her disability from attending school, she relies on the doctor for books and discussions that fit her intellect. Her parents, boggled by her condition and probably inherent depression, aren’t much help to her. She finds comfort in nature:

She loved most being in the woods, with the diffused light and the quiet there. Such a stillness…[t]he silent, imperceptible... Read more
This novel touched me by triggering a long-forgotten memory. As a medical student in the 1960's, I was assigned to a little girl with a variant of this congenital malformation at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The big difference was that my little patient also had exstrophy of the cloaca, meaning there was no skin covering over the anogenital area. I rotated off the service shortly after the child's admission but ran into the staff physician, a trailblazing female pediatric surgeon, Dr. Rowena Spencer, in a hospital corridor a short time afterward, When I inquired about the outcome, I could see tears well up in Dr. Spencer's eyes as she said, "For the first time in her life, she was able to wear little girl panties." Miss Jane and the author's real-life great aunt were born too early for this option. But I know Miss Jane turned out just fine, nonetheless.The narrative is as tender and Southern as drinking sweet iced tea, rocking on the porch, and sweeping the front yard. A... Read more
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