I admit that this book caught my eye solely due to the cover. I saw the long red dress and the delicate looking woman wearing it- then I saw the title. Mr. Darcy? The snooty-turned-kinda-okay hottie in Jane Austen's most famous novel? Okay, I'm intrigued. Show me more.
Typically when I book captures my eye I flip it over, read the back and if that interests me I'll glance at the first page of the book (sometimes, I skip to the very last and read the last sentence of the book as well). The back of the book interested me enough so I bought it, brought it home, and it has sat on my bookshelf for the past month.
It wasn't until I found myself dealing with a very stressful week and no book to read that I grabbed ahold of it. I have a slew of books I've bought and haven't read yet but I wanted something that was relatively short but looked like it would be enjoyable and leaving me entertained rather then mulling over the events of my own life. But I was worried that my impulse buy was simply that- an impulse- and that I was about to dive into a book that would bore and annoy me.
I began to read it none the less and didn't know if I was interested in the book until about four chapters in. By that point, I was finding that I couldn't put it down. I would sit on my couch with the cat warming my feet reading page after page. Suddenly that struggle to get twenty pages in was easy and I was through the first hundred.
Claire (the main character and voice to the story) is the type of character that you don't automatically love. In fact, I didn't love her at all. I, more or less, tolerated her. My problem with Claire is that she is a) whiney b) paranoid c) overly apologetic. While she was very worried about a lot of the people around her I found her to be somewhat self obsessed.
But that can be ignored once you dive into the complexity of the story. Here is Claire who is all woe-is-me and suddenly she realizes that the world does not actually revolve around her. (Here's the thing, I don't even think Claire realizes she thinks that way). She arrives in Oxford for a Jane Austen seminar which she has very little interest in and fumbles her way into the possession of some of Jane Austen's original pieces of work. Like any normal person she is at first convinced that this has to be a fake. She questions the judgement of the person who provides the manuscript and it isn't until nearly the halfway point of the novel that she truly begins to believe in the manuscript.
The author, Beth Pattillo, creates a version of Pride and Prejudice that is incredibly interesting and if it were true- if an original copy of Pride and Prejudice exists and is much different from the form we know today, I wonder if the story is much different like Pattillo makes it to be in her novel.
I also enjoyed that Pattillo put little facts about Oxford into the novel. Such as mentioning that Claire wasn't used to the time difference or that the sun was up so much later into the day then she was used to in America. (Example: Where I live the sun sets at 8-8:30 in the summer while in England it sets about an hour [maybe two?] later then that)
While Claire seems to be slowly getting immersed in this world of secret societies and manuscripts she seems to slip away from reality. Despite all of her worrying and concern for the well being of others she seems to slip up a lot. Her boyfriend, Neil, is barely mentioned through the first half of the book then comes on strong halfway through. Personally, I feel that she should have included him more from the start of the book rather then throw him at you midway.
I can point out the issues with this book- hell, I've already begun to do just that. But despite my prejudice (ha!) against the main character and the different issues I did enjoy the book. It took me away from my present day problems and I was entertained by the problems of a fictional woman (misery loves company, perhaps?). I did find myself eager to find out what happened to the characters and manuscript and therefore kept reading- and I didn't begrudge this continuation of my reading. I enjoyed it.
I don't believe this is a literary classic. I don't even believe this is something that is worthy of being a best seller. But I do feel that it's a good book to grab hold to for a quick fix of boredom, loneliness, or worries. Then again, maybe it's just a good read for someone who is also self obsessed about her own problems at the moment (that would be me!). It's nice to know that you're not the only one who gets a little overwhelmed every now and then. And what is better then that- Claire overcomes her woes. She straightens up and gets on with life. It's a little inspiring. A spark of light that says 'don't worry, you can do it too.'