Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Published by Books on Tape on October 16, 2015
Length: 10 hrs 52 mins
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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 almost quit listening to First Impressions about halfway through, mostly because I had an audiobook waiting in the wings that I was really, really looking forward to, but I stuck it out to the end. I’m not sure if that was a good choice or not. It wasn’t torture, but it wasn’t great either. The story alternates between chapters focusing on Sophie in now and Jane back then, which worked well really, even if from what I understand a lot of the Jane portion was as fictional as the Sophie part. I knew who the bad guy was – from the moment he showed up; I knew that Sophie would find proof that Jane Austen was not a plagiarist; I was sure Sophie would end up with the right guy and that Jane Austen would become a well-known novelist. And guess what- I was right.
What kept me listening was that Sophie, and especially her uncle, love books. The libraries and books shops and the books themselves were marvelous. I enjoyed learning a bit about early book publishing too.
Sophie, though I appreciated her love of books, was not someone I actually liked. She fell for the guy #1 too easily and then fell for, and slept with, guy #2 too easily. Maybe she didn’t fall for guy #2, but she did go on and on about how good-looking he was and how awesome the sex was. I found her annoying. She didn’t have much compunction against stealing or breaking and entering – apparently her love of Austen and her uncle justified most things.
The narrator however, had an adorable voice, just British enough. She made even the corny lines sounds fun and amusing. She made it seem cuter, funner than it was.
If just the fact that it features Jane Austen makes you want to read it, at least wait for the paperback – it comes out at the end of the month.