Book Review : First Impressions
A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen
By Charlie Lovett
A thrilling literary mystery co-starring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale
Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.
Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.
In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and so anytime she is featured in a novel, or her literary work is being drawn out from her novels, I am always on pins and needles. I loved the narrative Lovett fabricated involving Jane Austen. He included many what if’s, and could it be possible, and perhaps this is why she didn’t write at this time, and wouldn’t it be fun if…
The scenes felt in keeping with the time period and rolled along gently. They feel pastoral, which is used literarily to show the goodness of God and nature compared to the wickedness of the city. (I believe this was unintentional on the author’s part – but I could be mistaken.)
Sophie Collingwood is the modern day protagonist. Her ancestral home is under immense financial strain, her uncle’s flat in London was in the middle of the hustle of the city and she has recently come from University – another place full of angst and pressure. Sophie’s life is a far cry from the quiet timber of Austen’s pastoral world. Her uncle’s death and the loss of his library is a blow that starts her on a new path. I questioned if a book lover like Sophie would stoop to larceny; by the end of the book I felt like that query was satisfied. I felt like she should be angrier at her father for his behavior instead of giving him something of a pass. I liked how she and her sister were very close and supportive.
The contrasting love interests, Winston Godfrey and Eric Hall, became more interesting because Sophie finds out they knew each other at University. My bias ran immediately to voting for Eric Hall. He might be brash, but at least I figured I’d always know what he was thinking. Would you prefer sexy and mysterious or genuine and unforgettable?
As I read First Impressions, I created an inner dialogue about the nature of a cad – historically and in a modern context. If I were to define a cad I would say he is charming, a narcissist and in a position to use women for his own benefit and interests. Historically, a cad may be excused for his behavior because of money or position and society would wink at his indiscretions. Ultimately, women suffered because of a cad’s behavior, while he received little inconvenience. Is there a modern equivalent to a cad? Depressingly no, because caddish behavior is expected and is the norm for both sexes. (Other than conveniences like, indoor plumbing, food and ease of travel I could have fit in well in proper Regency society.)
Sophie expects Eric to be a cad, but he isn’t. In turn, Winston is expected to be a cad and lives up to expectations. Sophie could also be termed a cad because she is certainly using Winston and enjoying a tawdry affair with him. I certainly questioned Sophie’s reasons for trusting Winston after she caught him in his first indiscretion. Sophie’s sister also expects caddish behavior. The morals of today stand in stark contrast to the code of ethics women lived by in the Regency Era.
Overall, I liked First Impressions, but I didn’t love it as much as I hoped. I loved the quotes from Austen’s books!
Definitely read The Lost Book of the Grail, also written by Lovett. I’m working backwards on his books and will definitely read more and look forward to a new novel he’s working on taking place in New York with a Nancy Drew feel.
3.5 out of 5 stars
For a Darcy spin on Pride and Prejudice I remember liking An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aiden. (It’s been years since I read it, so I hope it’s as good as I remember.)
Another historical novel I really enjoyed was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. If you haven’t ever picked it up today is the day to give it a try.
Also try Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.