“First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen” by Charlie Lovett. Viking Adult, 2014. $27.95, 320 pages.
Sophie Collingwood, bibliophile and Austen lover, has always adored her Uncle Bertram, the only member of her family who shared her deep love of books. So when he dies in an unexplained accident, Sophie is naturally devastated at the loss of not only her uncle, but also his library that she was supposed to inherit but was instead sold to pay his debts. With a recently achieved Oxford degree, a newly inherited London flat, and no clear plans for her future, Sophie takes a job at an antiquarian bookstore and is shortly plunged into a mystery that stretches back more than 200 years.
When two different customers, one charming and one threatening, both appear in search of the same obscure book in the same week, Sophie is intrigued. What could be so important about a second edition of a book written by a reverend that no one has ever heard of? And why did they both come to her shop for answers?
Determined to answer her questions, Sophie begins investigating and finds that the answer may be found more than two centuries earlier in an unconventional friendship between a young Jane Austen and an elderly curate.
As Sophie digs deeper, she begins to realize that this mystery isn’t just a question of tracking down an obscure antique book, but a matter of life and death, specifically hers. Her quest to uncover the truth could bring about a revelation that might just destroy everything she’s ever loved.
Told in alternating chapters between Sophie’s story and Jane’s, “First Impressions” is a charming, entertaining story, perfect for bibliophiles and Austenphiles alike. It’s a quick read, which is a good thing because Lovett’s storytelling and humor keep you captivated from the first page to the last.
Rebekah Scott is a reference librarian at May Memorial Public Library. Visit us on the web at www.alamancelibraries.org.