Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"First Impressions"

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright, whose plays for children have been seen in more than 3,000 productions. He is a former antiquarian bookseller and an avid book collector. He and his wife split their time between Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Kingham, Oxfordshire, in England.

Lovett's novels include The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession and the newly released First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen.

He applied the Page 69 Test to First Impressions and reported the following:
Page 69 of First Impressions finds Sophie, the modern-day heroine of the book, in crisis. Unable to sleep, she phones her sister to talk about what she should do next. The conversation, which continues on the next page, is actually a critical turning point in the book—the place at which Sophie begins to be proactive and take her future into her own hands. It also illustrates the close bond between Sophie and her sister Victoria. This is not the only time that Sophie will turn to Victoria for help, and, as this passage implies, she knows she can always trust her sister, even when she is not sure she can trust anyone else. We also see here that Victoria is a woman of action; while Sophie feels at sea, her sister is ready to formulate a plan.

Page 69 is a very internal page for Sophie, so there is a lot that is important about First Impressions that is not on that page, most especially Jane Austen. But there are major elements of the book that are hinted at here. Sophie bemoans “the injustice of her Uncle Bertram’s books being sold.” Unpacking that phrase will lead the reader to understand the deep relationship between Sophie and both her Uncle Bertram and books. The heading of page 69, “London, Present Day” is another hint. Why would this heading be needed if the narrative didn’t move around in time and space? In fact, part of the narrative takes place in the 1796 world of Jane Austen.

More than anything, page 69 takes us straight to the confused, broken heart of our heroine Sophie Collingwood. If you have any interest in finding out how she heals, you’ll want to read on.

Page 69:
London, Present Day

Sophie could not sleep. She lay awake in the flat filled with grief, anger, fear, and confusion. Finally she called Victoria. In the sprawling Bayfield House, the sisters had occupied adjacent rooms, and on many nights during their childhood one of them, unable to sleep, had crept into the other’s room and slipped under the covers. Sometimes the visitor simply fell asleep; other times they talked until morning. Sophie missed that. She hated that Victoria lived so far away and that they could only talk on the phone, which could never convey the same warmth as Victoria’s presence.

“Can’t sleep?” said her sister.

“You don’t know the half of it,” said Sophie. She told Victoria everything—the injustice of Uncle Bertram’s books being sold, her confusion about her feelings toward Eric, and how directionless she still felt.

“I wish I could be there with you,” said Victoria.

“I just don’t know what to do,” said Sophie.

“About what?”

“About any of it.”

“Well, let’s take things one at a time,” said Victoria. “First of all, why didn’t you tell me about that letter from Eric? The last time I saw him you were escorting him out of the dining room after he was so rude to Father.”

“He was so arrogant.”
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookman's Tale.

My Book, The Movie: The Bookman's Tale.

Writers Read: Charlie Lovett.

--Marshal Zeringue