First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen
By Charlie Lovett
Viking, 2014. 308 pages. Fiction.
To say that Sophie Collingwood loves books would be an understatement. Books have been her life since her Uncle Bertram first introduced her to the mystery of them as a child. But in an instant, everything in her life falls apart. Her uncle is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, the victim of an unfortunate incident. All his books are sold without her permission. And two different men suddenly request a copy of a very rare book, one of them threatening her life if she can't come up with it. What had Uncle Bertram found in the family library? And how will it all relate to Jane Austen's most famous work, Pride & Prejudice?
Lovett has done an amazing job going between two time periods, alternating a fictional narrative from Jane Austen's life with the modern happenings with Sophie and her desperate attempt to find an almost unknown book that could change the course of Austen history. His historical fiction is so well blended with fact that is hard to tell where the fact leaves off and the fiction begins - always a sign of a well-written historical fiction novel. (I actually had to scour the author notes at the end to satisfy my curiosity.) And the pace is kept up throughout, leaving the reader just as confused as Sophie as the various unimportant trails of the story slowly weave together to bring about the conclusion. A fascinating piece of both historical and contemporary fiction.