This review was originally written in 2014
Jane Austen fans are in for a treat in this literary mystery cum romance modeled on the beloved novels of Jane Austen. One nice twist is the addition of the parallel storyline about Jane Austen’s fictitious relationship with an older clergyman who helps encourage her writing aspirations. Many of the questions raised in the accompanying modern day literary mystery and hunt for a rare edition are answered for the reader in flashbacks to the year 1796 and following. This device allows the reader to guess more than Sophie, the bibliophilic protagonist, is aware of, which guessing is of course half the fun of a mystery in the first place. There are plenty of clues hidden in various archives and dusty bookshelves to enthrall the readers, most of whom will be of Sophie’s ilk. When her beloved Uncle Bertram dies under questionable circumstances and his book collection is liquidated by her father to pay Bertram’s debts, Sophie is justifiably outraged. She begins working in a rare book shop and is approached by two collectors with very different methods (one charming, the other not so much) who are both after the same obscure book. What she discovers about this book is where the stories of Jane and Sophie meet. Throw in a romantic American academic who also loves Jane Austen, and we have a single marriage plot that is to die for. The ending is a little abrupt and a little too easy perhaps, but this too, follows the pattern set by Austen. Once everyone is in their assigned places, the ending follows quickly, with a little wrap up, in this case not by the narrator, but by the protagonist. Good fun for all.