What was Jane Austen’s First Impressions?
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Giveaway Win
Claire Prescott, an unemployed pediatrics office manager, has spent her whole life suppressing her desires and sacrificing her needs in order to properly care for her younger sister. Our heroine and her sister have suffered the unfortunate tragedy of losing both mother and father in a car accident many years ago, and Claire has been selflessly living her life for others ever since. Because her pregnant sister, Missy, is unable to fly, Claire has obligingly agreed to take her place at a Jane Austen seminar in Oxford, England. While some Janeites would squeal with delight at such fortuity, Claire finds Mr. Darcy to be a bit overrated. Even though she is going on this trip as a favor to her sister, Claire ends up benefiting from this experience more than she ever anticipated…
Upon arrival in Oxford, Claire meets the exceptionally handsome, wealthy, and of course, arrogant James Beaufort, who is also attending the Jane Austen seminar. Claire’s spine-tingling attraction for James and his undisguised interest in her fills Claire with confusion and excitement. Claire’s recent frustration with her inattentive and self-absorbed boyfriend, Neil, seems to be forgotten as this real-live Mr. Darcy (James) intently pursues her. Is there an ulterior motive for James interest in Claire? Will Claire end her relationship with Neil for James?
Not only does Claire find romance in Oxford, she finds Jane Austen! When Claire befriends the eccentric and elderly Harriet Dalrymple and escorts her home, Mrs. Dalrymple, in turn, allows Claire to see her collection of Jane Austen’s papers. Claire strongly suspects that these so-called “papers” are fake and that the kind Mrs. Dalymple is loosing her mental capabilities until the yellowed and crumbling pages of a manuscript labeled First Impressions is placed in her hands. Could Mrs. Dalrymple be in possession of Jane Austen’s original manuscript for Pride and Prejudice?
Those of you who have read Beth Pattillo’s engaging novel, Jane Austen Ruined My Life, will be happy to see the return of The Formiddables (a secret society of select Austen scholars that safely guard and conserve a massive collection of letters and documents that belonged to Jane Austen). This time instead of exploring an “unknown” romance in Jane Austen’s life, we are presented with chapters from First Impressions, Jane Austen’s first draft of Pride and Prejudice that she wrote in 1797. I greatly enjoyed this story within a story part of the novel. This captivating Pride and Prejudice variation asked the question: what if Mrs. Bennet’s greatest fear was realized and Mr. Bennet died before any of his daughters were married? Ms. Pattillo’s imagined version illustrates how Jane Austen’s disappointed love-affair with Tom Lefroy might have influenced her to pen a tale that is not so very “light, and bright, and sparkling.” These riveting little chapter fragments were peppered through out the novel, and while at times may seem a little far-fetched, they were well-written and thought-provoking.
Ms. Pattillo offers quite a lot in her novels: romance, self-discovery, adventure, mystery, and of course, a copious amount of Jane Austen lore that would satisfy anyone’s Jane Austen fix! With so many elements integrated in these novels, they become not just frothy and fun, but multifaceted and dynamic. While I loved the combinations and complexities of this novel, I sometimes felt that some aspects were a little underdeveloped and rushed. In this case, I thought the relationships Claire had with her sister Missy, her boyfriend Neil, and her love interest James needed more development and page time. Perhaps a little more background information and history would have given these relationships a bit more depth and understanding. In addition, I would have appreciated more details about Harriet’s connection with The Formiddables and Claire’s Jane Austen seminar as they were only slightly featured. In all honesty I wish this story was a hundred pages longer!
This series is a must-read for Austen admirers! Beth Pattillo is quite adept in envisioning the “untold secrets” of Jane Austen! Rumor has it that Ms. Pattillo’s next novel will be about Charlotte Brontë and not Jane Austen, however, and I greatly look forward to reading that one as well! I highly recommend this series to readers who are looking for a clean, diverting, and enthralling Austen-Inspired novel to delve into!
This is my first completed item for the “Everything Austen Challenge II” hosted by Stephanie’s Written Word.