Charlie Lovett centers his new novel, First Impressions around that idea and does such a wonderful job of it that I was sad to turn the final page. I'm happy to say this novel will certainly be in my top five favorite reads for 2014.
First Impressions tells the story of Jane Austen and her friendship with an elderly clergyman, Richard Mansfield. They meet one day while Jane is strolling through the countryside, and strike up a conversation over books. This friendship soon develops and grows into a very deep and meaningful exchange of ideas and a love of books. Jane is in the throes of writing what will eventually become Sense and Sensibility, and bounces ideas off of Mansfield. He, in turn, shares ideas with Jane. Could one of those ideas be the kernel of what will become Pride and Prejudice?
Along with Jane's story, we have a contemporary tale of Sophie Collingwood, just graduated from Oxford, who has a passion for old classic books. She's inherited this love of books from her Uncle Bertram, and her family's country home has a huge library full of precious editions that her father is itching to sell off in order to maintain the family's ancestral home. Sophie is in a bit of a romantic snafu--she's met Eric, an American who can match her love of Jane Austen quote for quote, and Winston, who comes to Sophie with a request for an obscure book--by Richard Mansfield. Strangely enough, another man also requested this book the day before from the rare book store that Sophie works at in London.
What is the connection between this small, obscure book and Jane Austen? Why is it so important to find? And why is Sophie given the task to find it? What does it have to do with her Uncle Bertram and her family library? Can she trust either Eric or Winston to help her solve the mystery?
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this novel. It is obvious Charlie Lovett has a passion for books and a reverence for the written word. And if you're like me and sometimes feel like you're the only one around who feels the same way, well... it's like meeting a kindred spirit. Toss in Jane Austen, some romance, a cad, and a summer in England and you've got a winning combination.
And you can win a copy of First Impressions! Just follow the rafflecopter directions below, and I'll be announcing a winner next Tuesday, October 20th. Open to U.S. residents only. Thank you to Viking/Penguin for sending me a copy of this book.
It really did make my week to take a break from studying and devour this book. There are so many wonderful sprinkles of Pride and Prejudice (including the title of this book--which was the first title Jane had for P&P) running through this novel that I found myself smiling as I turned the pages.
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Rating: 9/10 for a wonderfully entertaining novel about the origins of Pride and Prejudice. Read my review of Charlie's first novel, The Bookman's Tale here. First Impressions will be released October 20th in hardcover and e-book.