I’m the book nerd that loves to read stories that revolve around books. I binge read First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett and enjoyed every word. I wasn’t sure about the novel at first because I’m not (gasp) a Jane Austen fan. First Impressions will appeal to anyone who loves a literary mystery.
In present day Oxfordshire, we meet Sophie Collingwood, a book lover and an Austen devotee. Feeling lost after graduating from Oxford, she takes a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London. During her first week on the job, she receives two requests for an obscure book the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Intrigued, Sophie digs deeper into the title to discover it may cast doubt on the true authorship of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Soon her discoveries put her life in danger. In between Sophie’s adventures, the novel imagines Jane Austen’s inspiration and writing process for Pride and Prejudice.
The novel has all the elements to keep you on your toes: mystery, adventure, and even romance. As someone who’s not familiar with Jane Austen’s biography, I especially enjoy the author’s depiction of her life with the imaginary Richard Mansfield. I’m sure I missed plenty of references to Austen’s books, but I didn’t feel like I missed out at all. My only issue is that I felt that the conclusion seemed rushed and too tidy.
If you like literary mysteries, I also recommend Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, mystery about one of Shakespeare’s well-known works. You can read my review of The Bookman’s Tale here. Lovett draws upon his background as a rare book collector for both novel. Reading about book antiquarians and rare, old books lets me live vicariously as my budget and space constraints don’t allow for rare book collecting.
First Impressions would make a great book club read, especially if you want to read it in tandem with Pride and Prejudice. The publisher put together a First Impressions Book Club Kit with recipes, author Q&A, and Jane Austen resources.
Giveaway: Win a copy of First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett. Leave a comment below and tell me who your favorite British author is. I’ll draw a winner on on November 2. (U.S. addresses only please).
I received a review copy of the book.