First Impressions by Charlie Lovett (and give-away)

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…I cannot help but be reminded of the dangers that befall those who succumb to their first impressions.

Sometimes, first impressions can be a good thing. I remember reading of Charlie Lovett’s book, The Bookman’s Tale, on Nadia’s blog and being delighted to win a copy of it for my own. When the chance to read his latest book, First Impressions, came my way I eagerly accepted this book based on my first impression of hearing about him months ago.

Even when Jane Austen warned readers long ago of the fallibility of first impressions; how wrong we can be when we trust our initial reaction.

This charming novel depicts a relationship between Jane Austen and a clergyman of 80 years of age. Theirs is a tremendous friendship based on literary pleasures. They love to read to each other, and they love to share in the development of characters Jane created in her books Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and most importantly, Pride and Prejudice.

Balanced against this picturesque tableau is the present day life of Sophie Collingwood, a bibliophile of the first order. When her beloved Uncle Bertram is found dead, Sophie is thrust into discovering the true cause of his death as she cannot believe that he simply fell down the stairs outside his home. It is a home which had been stacked from floor to ceiling, on every conceivable horizontal surface, with books. These were the treasures that he shared with Sophie all her growing up. They were to become her own library in due time.

But when she takes residence in her uncle’s apartment, which had been left to her, she discovers that all the furniture, and worse, all the books, have been sold. More distressing than that is the way that she has received requests from two men, each of whom want a second edition of the book which had been written by Jane Austen’s friend.

Sophie embarks on a quest to answer the question of why “the second edition of a painfully dull book of allegories merited all this cloak and dagger intrigue.” For she is seduced by a handsome man named Winston, while fending off threats from another man named Smedley, and wondering how much a third man, named Eric, really means to her.

This is a book which imagines a thrilling scenario behind the story of Pride and Prejudice, casting doubt on Jane Austen as the true author, while immersing the reader into the lives of fellow bibliophiles all the while. One feels at home in the company of Sophie and her uncle, Jane and her friend, and the old book shops filled with dust motes and musty smells. One longs to reread a favorite Jane Austen novel upon finishing this book which has fleshed her out so well.

Penguin books has given me the opportunity to give away this book, plus a classic copy of Pride and Prejudice, to one reader (U.S./Canada only, please). If you would like to enter in the give-away, simply leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen novel.

(Congratulations to Heidi who has won a copy from the publisher!)

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