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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Maine Colonial 🌲 on 01-11-17
One story thread is much better than the other
I have mixed feelings about this book. I've enjoyed Charlie Lovett's books before, and his specialty is dual-narrative literary mysteries, so I figured another one would be a good bet.
The older narrative involves Jane Austen and imagines a story about her inspiration to write Pride & Prejudice––or, as it was originally titled, First Impressions. The contemporary story features a young woman named Sophie, a bibliophile with a particular interest in Jane Austen.
Sophie's love of books came about through her relationship with her favorite uncle, Bertram, who lives in London's Maida Vale in a flat filled with his book treasures, most hunted down in old book shops, but a precious shelf coming from an annual choice out of his family's ancestral home.
As a result of a series of shocking events, Sophie pursues an investigation into the history of Pride & Prejudice and its possible relationship with a book written by a clergyman–––a book that two mysterious men have commissioned her to find. In her investigation, she also hopes to involve mysteries involving Uncle Bertram and his library.
As in other Lovett novels, the contemporary story includes a romance element. Those familiar with Jane Austen will note certain resemblances between Sophie's love life and some Austen romances. This is not necessarily a positive for a mystery, since it makes it only too obvious how that plot will play out. Another problem with the contemporary plot thread is that Lovett has Sophie make some stunningly dumb decisions that needlessly put her in danger. I hate it when writers do that.
The Jane Austen plot is more appealing, though it's not very lively if that's what a reader is interested in.
Jayne Entwistle chooses a too-cute voice for the tone of the novel. I've heard her normal speaking voice, which would have been better. Instead, she goes up into a more soprano level and puts an overdone laughing tone into her reading. It isn't terrible, but it is a little bit grating.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Tom on 03-09-16
well written wonderfully narrated but . . .
Well written, wonderfully narrated story that is interesting but borders on the edge of credulity. First a nod to the narrator: she's great. The book goes back to recount 20 year old Jane Austen’s friendship, one centered around books, with an 80 year old retired minister, leading to Jane’s early publications and in present day to deal with a recent Oxford graduate bibliophile and ardent fan of Jane Austen. That the synopsis mentions that the woman’s life if threatened over the search for a book published in Austen’s times that few have ever heard of and fewer who have even read it. I found that the search for the book and the solution to the mystery lead to a suspicious death and a ruthless antagonist carried things a bit too far. But, overall, this was a worthwhile listen.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful