BY THE BOOK by Julia Sonneborn


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Professor Anne Corey is stunned to learn that her ex-fiance has been hired as Fairfax College’s new president. Her troubles are only beginning.

In her debut novel, Sonneborn retells Jane Austen’s Persuasion, setting it in the rarified world of academia, where Anne’s brilliant teaching and love of 19th-century women’s novels—Persuasion is indeed her favorite—are threatened by the brutal circus of three-year contracts and the dangling sword of publish-or-perish. Supported by her best friend, Larry—a bracingly witty Henry James scholar who has embroiled himself in a clandestine affair with a married, rather dim, but gorgeous actor who's playing Rochester in a movie called Jane Vampire, based on the Brontë novel—Anne has embraced her career. Although it's nearly impoverished her, it has helped her forget Adam Martinez, her college sweetheart, whom she abandoned on the eve of graduation. Now that Adam has taken the reins at Fairfax, Anne will have to face her past: why did she leave him? And does she still have feelings for him? Meanwhile, brash Man Booker Prize–winning author Rick Chasen has swooped into Anne’s life. A motorcycle-riding bad boy with stories to tell of surviving an IED in Fallujah and fomenting rebellion among college professors, Rick has secured a writer-in-residence position at Fairfax, but he and Adam clearly have bad blood between them, and no one will tell Anne why. Sonneborn handily translates Austen’s tale into a modern context, creating a light, bright revision with quirkily compelling characters: Anne’s 98 overdue library books, her willingness to watch the movie Jane Vampire over and over with a besotted Larry, not to mention her patient explanation of all things Jane Eyre to Larry’s simple-minded lover, endear her to the reader, who eagerly awaits the famous words: “Reader, I married him.”

This decidedly filmable update of the classic romance—without zombies or vampires—will charm lovers of Jane Austen and chick lit alike.

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5011-7518-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2017


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