Thought-Provoking and True
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
In her modern-day retelling of Persuasion, author Isabelle Solal takes readers on a sojourn from London, England to Paris, France, to a Mediterranean villa in the south of France, as her heroine, Alina Marin (Anne Elliot), strives to figure out how to fix her life. As a confident and intelligent attorney, Alina’s career is everything. Nothing is more important than her success and her ambition to make partner at her firm. Even a great love affair cannot withstand her drive to succeed. But Alina’s confidence and drive is severely shaken when one of her important clients just inexplicably discards her. Will she ever be able to make partner? Is the sacrifice of working eighty hours a week worth the lack of family and friendships? Is she making the right choices in her life? Is she happy?
Due to a nervous breakdown/panic attack Alina is granted a six-month leave of absence from work. Helping the despondent and lost Alina cope with her exhaustion, depression, and confusion is her work colleague, Rachel (Lady Russell) and her younger sister, Margot (Mary Musgrove). Yes, believe it or not, the Mary Musgrove character in this book does not suffer from imaginary complaints and is in fact a caring and devoted sister!
As Alina’s life slowly begins to mend in the exquisite and picturesque country of France she runs into Will Fredericks, an adventurous independent field journalist whom she ended a love affair with seven years ago. An affair that was fervid, tumultuous, complex, and life-changing. With Will, Alina experienced true love. But in the end, Alina didn’t have the perseverance to hold onto it. Does she regret this decision? Is this serendipitous meeting mean something significant?
What I loved most about this thought-provoking novel was how the author, through a series of flashbacks in reverse order, displayed all the major moments in Alina’s and Will’s past relationship. The story about Alina’s self-discovery occurs in present day, but at the end of each chapter we travel back seven years and witness the history between Alina and Will. I thought this was extremely creative and skillfully executed. And having the flashbacks in reverse order was brilliant! I took great pleasure in all the flashbacks. It was a very realistic depiction of how two diverse people in love deal with the fact that they want different things out of life.
Another element I greatly enjoyed was finding all the subtle nods and allusions to Jane Austen’s Persuasion. This isn’t your typical modern-day Austen retelling. Not all of Jane Austen’s characters are represented and many of plot events don’t mirror the original. I like that the author did this, her novel isn’t an exact carbon-copy of Persuasionwhich makes it all the more interesting.
However, I occasionally found myself to be unsympathetic towards Alina, and often wished she was a little more likable. Unlike Anne Elliot, Alina doesn’t have a copious amount of good qualities; it seems she takes after Sir Walter a bit, as she is sometimes selfish, arrogant, and mean. I think I would have liked her better if she had just a few more redeeming qualities.
Readers should be prepared for an ambiguous ending à la Inception. The close of the story is very open-ended, realistically reminding the reader that not all stories end with everyone living happily ever after. Even though I am decidedly romantic, I appreciated this insightful and unique conclusion. Isabelle Solal’s story of a modern-day woman’s struggle to have it all is something many readers can understand and identify with. I took great pleasure in Ms. Solal’s writing style and interpretation. She is most definitely an author to keep your eye on!
Note: Due to some slightly intimate scenes (very brief and mild), I would recommend this novel for Mature Audiences.
GIVEAWAY!!! Thanks to Isabelle Solal, I have one BRAND NEW copy of In the Past Imperfect to giveaway to one of my lucky readers!
All you have to do is leave a comment on this review! (To save your inbox from unwanted spam, please don’t leave your email address.) Just check back to see if you win! Fortunately for our interntational friends, this giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Isabelle!!
This contest ends March 10th. Thank you for entering and best of luck!