Persuasion is quite possibly my favorite of all Austen’s books, and Captain Wentworth is in a dead heat with Darcy for favorite literary hero of all time. With that background, it would be easy to think that any novel based on Persuasion would automatically win my good opinion, but the opposite is rather true. With something so beloved, I will only be swayed by a treatment that is truly superlative. I’m happy to say I was not disappointed in Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe.
There is so much to love about this book, it’s hard for me to express it clearly–so if I jump around a bit, please forgive me.
First, I love parallel story lines when they are woven together in such a way that they support each other. As Sophie jumps back and forth between the past and present, the things that have just happened to her in the other time inform her decisions where she is now. The two stories are really one story–Sophie’s story.
Second, one of the fun things about reading fiction is figuring out what the author’s other passions might be. When you read Searching for Captain Wentworth, it quickly becomes obvious that Jane Odiwe loves and knows art. She uses various paintings throughout the story as props to guide us into a deeper understanding of Jane, her times, and the story at hand.
Third, it is apparent right from the start of Searching for Captain Wentworth that she is intimately familiar with both Bath and Jane Austen. There is a vibrancy to her descriptions of the city that could not come from someone who did not love it dearly. Amazingly, her picture of Regency Bath is just as clear as the vision of modern Bath–and yes, there have been some changes over the last 200 years.
As for Austen… Ah, and here is where this book really grabbed my heart, reader. Since Jane Austen is actually a character in Searching for Captain Wentworth, one of the more delightful things in the novel was the way Jane Odiwe sprinkled names, situations, and quotes that one could easily see later went on to inspire our Jane in her works. If you are an author, you know that some of your best scenes are the ones you have either witnessed or experienced. Why wouldn’t the same be true for Austen?
Yes, yes. So the writing is fabulous, but what of the story? The story, at its heart, is a classic story of a young lady dissatisfied with her own life who manages to escape to a fantasy. The fact that her fantasy is actually history merely adds flavor. Will she allow herself to be sucked into the fantasy, leaving behind those who love her at home, or will she use the lessons she learns in the past to grow in the present?
I loved the heroes in this book, both of them. The historical Wentworth was so very dashing and handsome, and the modern Frederick (Okay, Josh…) was gallant and chivalrous. I have to say, I’m really a little envious of Sophie, having the love of two such men!
In short, if you love Bath, art, romantic heroes, or Jane Austen, you will love this book.