Publisher: Viking Adult
Publishing Date: October 16
Genre: contemporary, historical fiction, mystery
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.
Sophie Collingwood’s life is dedicated to books. Thanks to her Uncle Bertram’s enthusiasm for literature, she too began collecting and reading books at a young age. When her uncle dies outside his apartment unexpectedly, Sophie is certain it was murder. Upon arriving at his apartment, she finds it completely bare of books — and after acquiring a job at an antiquarian bookshop, she makes it her personal mission to find Bertram’s murderer and his personal library. Soon enough, she becomes entangled in a mystery connecting her family to Jane Austen’s career, and she must decide if it’s a secret worth dying for.
Lush and exquisitely told, Lovett’s dual narrative between present-day Oxford graduate Sophie Collingwood and the young Jane Austen — prior to her publishing career — is a rich, cozy read. I think Austen fans will enjoy this interpretation of the beginnings of Pride and Prejudice, and I certainly enjoyed the mystery and thrill in Sophie’s life. Threatening phone calls to obtain a rare book that may or may not be connected to Austen can definitely make a bookworm’s heart pound. Between Oxford and London, libraries and bookshops, graveyards and old estates, Sophie’s narrative is exciting for the bookish researcher. Jane’s narrative is calmer, revealing a growing friendship with an old cleric who also enjoys literature. His influence on her books is profound, and their connection deep and unyielding.
I cannot pinpoint why exactly I didn’t give this four or five stars. It’s one of those books that, once you begin reading and fall into the rhythm of the narrative, you can’t put it down. Seeing as I had to repeatedly put it down for other responsibilities in my life, I didn’t quite fall into it like I wanted to. The mystery is justifiably intriguing, the hunt for books engaging, and the threat to reveal the truth behind Austen’s most famous work terrifying. I liked it. Bookworms will too!
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Viking for review!