A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen
Penguin|Viking Adult (October 16, 2014)
Print and E-Books: 320 pages
Penguin Audio 10:52, Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Audiobook provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.|
A thrilling literary mystery costarring 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, this time 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.
I have read quite a few Jane Austen-themed novels lately. Some are good and this is one I really liked. It left me with a good feeling, but even more I was in suspense until the very point of the climax. I only regret that hanging is no longer a punishment in the UK.
I liked the reader whose personal history gives her the advantage of having lived in Britain, Canada and the US. Her gentlemen were well done: masculine without sounding too tough — an issue I often have with female narrators.
I linked the relationship between Sophie and her sister, her less than perfect relationship with her parents, and her wonderfully retold relationship with her uncle. The cheeky American Eric was suspect for a couple of reasons, and I instantly felt there was something off with Winston the British beau. But it was not until the end that I could figure out who the bad guy was.
I LOVED how Sophie and her sister would always ask whether the other wanted to “shag or kill” a guy they were talking about. And the history of their relationship through recollections of childhood events.
The relationship between Jane and her more-than-a-friend, Mr. Mansfield was heart-breakingly lovely. Parts of it had me in tears. Like star-crossed lovers, their age difference was as good as a knife to the chest or a bottle of poison. I never really understood whether it was a relationshi0p that would have been romantic under other circumstances or just deeply avuncular, but it doesn’t matter because the two are in such perfect sympathy. It was almost an adult form of the young Sophie and her sweet uncle’s relationship.
I’ve often found Jane portrayed as a sorrowful spinster, but Lovett doesn’t take that track; he presents a Jane who lives a beautiful, full and meaningful life.
The story follows two tracks: the contemporary tale of Sophie trying to understand her beloved uncle’s death as she starts out on her professional career after university and Jane’s friendship with Mr. Mansfield as she writes. Lovett presents the two story tracks independently, but also intertwines the theme of the relationship between the characters of Sophie and her sister and uncle, and Jane and Mr. Mansfield so well that I felt the connection without a more obvious correspondence.
That’s enough right there, but the deep understanding of Austen and her work, the devotion to it of the young characters in the contemporary story track make it so this story doesn;t need a second chance to make a good impression! This was highly enjoyable and I think for the Austen-Themed Novel lover this is a MUST READ, and I give it my thumbs-up.
Author’s Website: http://charlielovett.com/