Book Review: First Impressions

thejaneaustenseries_debrawhitesmithI have a confession to make. I took AP English my senior year of high school and I barely read any of the assigned texts. One of which was Pride and Prejudice. I even wrote one of my essays on that particular title. Thank you Sparknotes!

My dilemma was Austen’s verbosity. I would get mired down with all her words on every attempt to read the story. BUT I LOVED THIS RETELLING.

In an attempt to get to know the people of London, Texas–the small town that lawyer Eddi Boswick now calls home–she tries out for a local theater group’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’s thrilled to get the role of lively Elizabeth Bennet . . . until she meets the arrogant–and eligible–rancher playing her leading man.

Dave Davidson chose London, Texas, as the perfect place to live under the radar. Here, no one knows his past, and he can live a quiet, peaceful life with his elderly aunt, who also happens to own the local theater. Dave doesn’t even try out for the play, but suddenly he is thrust into the role of Mr. Darcy and forced to spend the entire summer with Eddi, who clearly despises him.

Sparks fly every time Eddi and Dave meet, whether on the stage or off. But when Eddi discovers Dave’s secret, she has to admit there might be more to him than she thought. Maybe even enough to change her mind . . . and win her heart.

While I can’t manage to finish the book, I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice as a story. Austen’s wit, expressed in her narrative and dialogue, are unmatched. If it weren’t for the sheer number of words she uses, she would probably be one of my favorite historic authors. But all that falls into place in Smith’s retelling.

Smith perfectly captured the essence of why we all love Jane Austen with her prose in this story. She’s witty. She’s ironic. And her characters, Eddi and Dave, encapsulate everything that is Elizabeth and Darcy so beautifully. She even allows the pair to acknowledge their similarities with the roles they portray in Aunt Maddy’s play. That made me laugh. It was so perfect.

As you read the story, you’ll find yourself predicting or expecting certain scenes to play out, paralleling the book, but Smith brought just enough nuance that First Impressions is familiar and different, all at once.

There are several instances where you might say, “That’s not like it was in the original story.” But I think you’ll find that the changes were perfect for telling this story as it might have happened in the present day. And you’ll see some of them right up front, as White provides her cast list before launching into the first chapter. For example, there is no character to represent Kitty, but it’s a functional change. And Darcy/Dave has a brother instead of a sister. And where Austen’s story deals with the pressures of marrying off several daughters while attempting to preserve their reputation so that they might marry up instead of down, White delves into growing up in the twenty-first century and the choices we make. How they set us up for either success or challenges. Which are in many ways, not entirely unlike Regency England.

There were a couple funky things that White likely carried over because of Austen’s style. Such as using character’s full names frequently. Not exactly typical of contemporary writing styles, but not uncommon to books published during the nineteenth century. The primary instance that comes to mind is when in Dave’s POV, he thinks of his aunt (Catherine De Bourgh) as Mrs. DeBloom. And (Charlotte Lucas) Cheri’s eagerness to marry the Mr. Collins character seems less believable. But for the sake of reliving Austen’s story, I found that these things made me laugh (something I was already doing because of Eddi and Dave’s banter), and when you’re laughing, it’s hard to be critical.

I already admitted I’m far from a die-hard fan of Austen, but I do love the story – and I have a strong hankering to watch the Kiera Knightly adaptation right now (I don’t have time for the BBC version). And I believe this book will bring a smile to the faces of fans who are much more appreciative than I.

I just cant say enough about how White captured Austen’s wit! It’s too perfect.

I give this one five stars. It deserves every one.

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*For those wondering, White does weave in elements of faith and a Christian World view, which differs from the book in that Regency Era Christianity was tied to the Anglican Church, and therefore more often cultural than it was personal. 

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 I received a free copy from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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