First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett – A Review

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )From the desk of Ruth Anderson:

Jane Austen’s unparalleled wit, biting social commentary, and sharply-drawn characters have transformed works that were once private scribblings, shared only with family, to classics beloved the world over. For the spinster daughter of a clergyman, Jane Austen’s work has proven to have a remarkable staying power, the unforgettable characters and storylines having been indelibly imprinted on the public consciousness, giving rise to a wide array of interpretations – from stage plays to films – as well as sequels or spin-offs. When I was approached with the opportunity to review Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions, I was simultaneously intrigued and wary, as it promised to address the creation of two of my most beloved characters in all of literature – Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.

Happily, Lovett’s charming sophomore effort won me over on all counts. This is both a loving homage to the enduring power and appeal of Austen’s stories and the passion that her works inspire, but the power of story. Bibliophiles of the type featured within these pages such as Lovett’s heroine Sophie are uniquely wired to grasp the inherent power and potential of words, and of how stories can forge connections across time and experience, knitting together authors and those who love their words in a community of common ground birthed from the shared reading experience, no matter how varied the respective interpretation.

First Impressions is a dual-narrative, a difficult feat to pull off successfully in my reading experience. In these cases, typically one half of the story thread resonates more strongly than the other, but here Lovett proves equally adept at balancing his contemporary narrative with the historical thread. The historical portion of the novel introduces a young Jane Austen, circa 1796, deep in the first draft of Elinor and Marianne, the epistolary novel that would serve as the genesis for Sense and Sensibility. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Richard Mansfield, an elderly and retired clergyman whom she is shocked to discover shares her passion for novels. Despite the wide disparity in their age and experience, Jane and the reverend prove to be a meeting of remarkably like minds from which a fast friendship is born. This friendship and the trust that comes to underscore their every interaction transforms Jane’s life as Reverend Mansfield becomes the staunchest support of Jane’s writing efforts (outside of her family). When Jane confesses a secret shame to her friend and mentor, a story called “First Impressions” is birthed from their joint project of reconciliation and redemption – the genesis of a love story between one Elizabeth Bennet and one Fitzwilliam Darcy. Continue reading

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Charlie Lovett

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )We are thrilled to welcome bestselling author Charlie Lovett to Austenprose today as guest of honor for the virtual book launch party of his new book, First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, just released by Viking (Penguin Group USA).

This intriguing new novel combines two of my favorite genres – historical romance and contemporary mystery. It features dual heroines: English author Jane Austen while she is writing her first draft of Elinor and Marianne (later entitled Sense and Sensibility) in 1796 Hampshire and Sophie Collingwood, an antiquarian bookseller in modern day London who stumbles upon a literary mystery that casts doubt upon the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s second published novel and her most famous work.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FIRST IMPRESSIONS

  • “[An] ingenious novel….Ardent fans of Jane Austen and lovers of gripping stories will enjoy following Sophie’s pursuit of the truth.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “[An] appealing combination of mystery, romance, and bibliophilism….An absolute must for Austen fans, a pleasure for others.” — Booklist
  • “A delightful read that Janeites will love….[Lovett] adds bookish intrigue to the life of another luminary of English literature.” — Library Journal

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Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon Jane Austen Style

Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon (2014)

I am participating in a special celebration of reading today – Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. And, of course I have a Jane Austen theme!

For those of you unfamiliar with this bi-annual event, a book blogger named Dewey started the tradition in 2007. Here is a description of the event from it’s website:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It is an all day and night total celebration of reading! The best thing about participating is that you can read as much or as little as you like. I chose to read the first few chapters of three new Austenesque novels (no spoilers) and live-tweet my reactions as I progress. Here are the novels that I have selected:

First Impressions A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett (2014 )FIRST IMPRESSIONS: A NOVEL OF OLD BOOKS, UNEXPECTED LOVE, AND JANE AUSTEN by, Charlie Lovett

(publisher’s description)

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.

PLEASE JOIN the Virtual Book Launch Party for FIRST IMPRESSIONS on Monday, October 20th with author Charlie Lovett and enter a giveaway chance for one of three copies available of this exciting new Austen-inspired novel. Continue reading