The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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October 8, 2014

First Impressions


      So this was where it ended, she thought. Alone in a quiet, empty room. Soon enough, she imagined, this room would be filled with books again. The Richard Mansfield Library, she supposed they would call it. Some enterprising soul would buy up Busbury, rename it Pemberley, and wait for the tourists to pour in. For a moment she thought she might like to  work here. She could be the librarian. But then she thought of the looks on the faces of all those lovers of Jane Austen, parading around the site of their heroine's downfall. No, she preferred it like this -- quiet and empty.
    Just as she was replacing the paperback, her phone beeped and she saw that she had a text from Victoria. Only it wasn't from Victoria.
I have your sister. If you want to see her alive come to the gatehouse with my book. Smedley. 

Sigh.  Premise?  Excellent. A country house library  and a London flat stuffed with old books?  Yes, please!  Unexpected love?  Of course. Jane Austen?  Always.  A kindly bibliophiliac uncle? Lovely. Did Jane Austen plagiarize-Pride and Prejudice from the writings of an elderly clergyman? Stirring. Two love interests, the good one of whom will surely turn out to be no good?  So Darcy/Wickham, Edmund/Willoughby, Frank Churchill/Mr. Knightley, but that fits.

The kind of setting, telling details that make all of this come alive?  Not so much.  Well-drawn characters who leap off the page? Same. Wishing that something more could have been done with all this? Yearningly.  An evil villain named Smedley?  I rest my case. {But I think the author was winking at us with that one.}

Still, I'm thankful for having First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett, courtesy of NetGalley and Penguin Viking Books, with me on the bus and for an hour or two of restful weekend reading. I've put the audiobook of  his first  novel, The Bookman's Tale, on reserve at the library.  Has anyone read it?

First Impressions will be published next week.

1 comment:

Bellezza said...

I found it a fun escape, as you did,mbut ultimately not quite living up to what I'd hoped for. I thought he made Jane Austen somewhat believable, but the. Again I don't "know" her as well as you do. As for Smedley, spare me.

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