It’s no secret I love Jane Austen. I began to read her books at a very young age. Pride and Prejudice was my first. I developed a relationship with Lizzie Bennet almost immediately – I think every young girl did. I identified with her- out of the box but within the realm of what is accepted – thinking. She was like Jo March – in Little Women – whom I also loved. Then, there was Darcy. The perfect and um, not so perfect man, for her. Many years later, as I watched not one but two versions of Pride and Prejudice, a very young Colin Firth, took my breath way. I had imagined Darcy one way, and here he was, changing that whole image. Er, well, you all know how I feel about Colin Firth. Lest you forget, however, there will be no other who will portray Darcy quite like our Mr Firth. Just my humble opinion. Moving along, there is a point somewhere to this preamble of course.
Persuasion became my obsession in my twenties. It surpassed Pride and Prejudice for I felt that Jane Austen left quite a bit of herself in the story, particularly because it was her last novel. I imagine she did so with all her books. Yet, I feel that Persuasion has a bit more pulse beneath its words. Captain Wentworth would never be Darcy, but he was always right there. With no film to truly satisfy the extension of my love for the book, I went on for many years, reading and re-reading it. Then, Rupert Penry Jones and Sally Hawkins came along in 2007 with a version of the film I loved. I must confess… a part of me has always wanted Jane’s stories to go on, but who would write more? No one could ever match up to her, no matter how hard they tried. I’m not sure If I’m a true ‘Jane-ite,’ I like to think I am. I do however like to search for authors who have written books on Jane Austen or her characters. On one such search, I found Jane Odiwe’s ‘Searching For Captain Wentworth.’
This particular story is sweet, light, slightly predictable at the end, but clearly written out of love for Jane Austen and who can resist that? I love the premise of traveling back from modern-day Bath, to regency era Bath. Who doesn’t want a glimpse of how simple and elegant life was back then? who doesn’t want to see what Austen saw? she seemed to have a sixth sense of the workings of the human heart, and of love. Who could resist the chance to meet Jane Austen herself? It is this concept that drew me to the story. I often wonder what it would be like to travel back in time…Sadly, the lack of good plumbing, body odor and dental floss would make me return to my time after about a day, I would think. Reading about it, however, is altogether a different thing.
We meet Sophie Elliot when she is in desperate need to get away from all her memories in London. Her heart is broken, she is not herself and her writing has hit a wall. Sophie hails from a family of strong, opinionated Elliot women. Sophia, her ancestor, is one of three sisters with a self-centered and pretentious father, Sound familiar? it is, the author is drawing parallels to Anne Elliot( in Persuasion) and her family. But, Odiwe adds her own little twist to the story which is slightly more intriguing. When Sophie receives the keys to her family home in Bath, she discovers the home is perched right next door to Jane Austen’s own home. Along with it, she finds a handsome neighbor, an old white glove, a tiny box with a portrait and hears gentle whispers and light as a feather, pitter patter on her wooden floors. She is constantly but comfortingly alerted to the fact that she is watched by her ancestors. Sophia Elliot is closest to Sophie’s heart, naturally. She travels back in time via the glove and inhabits Sophia’s body. It isn’t the usual, strange, modern-day girl going back in modern-day clothing, sort of tale. The time travel aspect is written-in seamlessly, it doesn’t alter much of the story because there is a magical element to it. We are meeting Jane Austen after all. Sophie is transported to the house next door, in regency garb and as Sophia, she finds and befriends Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra and Jane’s interesting brother Charles Austen, all at the same time. It is a delightful, yet captivating glimpse into Jane Austen’s life. It left me wondering if Jane’s true love could have swept her off her feet and how it is that Jane was never bitter about her circumstances? Instead, she chose to write about love, and enduring love at that. She chose to laugh at society, perhaps the same society that did her wrong through expectations of propriety and perfectly ridiculous rules. This lovely story by Jane Odiwe serves as a reminder of Austen’s ability to introduce characters that were timeless, strong, sometimes willful, independent and genuine. It is a nice change from books that try to re-capture Austen’s legacy.