Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review - Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe

When aspiring writer, Sophie Elliot, receives the keys to the family townhouse in Bath, it's an invitation she can’t turn down, especially when she learns that she will be living next door to the house her favourite author, Jane Austen, lived in. But, the neglected house is harbouring more than the antiquated furniture and nesting mice, though initially Sophie tries to dismiss the haunting visions of a young girl. On discovering that an ancient glove belonging to her mysterious neighbour, Josh Strafford, will transport her back in time to Regency Bath, she questions her sanity, but Sophie is soon caught up in two dimensions, each reality as certain as the other. Torn between her life in the modern world, and that of her ancestor who befriends Jane Austen and her fascinating brother Charles, Sophie's story travels two hundred years across time, and back again, to unite this modern heroine with her own Captain Wentworth. Blending fact and fiction together the tale of Jane Austen’s own quest for happiness weaves alongside, creating a believable world of new possibilities for the inspiration behind the beloved novel, Persuasion.

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In Searching for Captain Wentworth, I have found such a lovely mixture of some of my favorite things.  What could be better? Austenesque fiction? Check. Jane Odiwe, one of my preferred authors?  Check.  Time travel!?!?  I was in love before I even began this novel.  Throw in Jane’s unexpected and surprising thanks to me in her acknowledgements (a first for me as a reviewer!), and I was positively biased by the time I began reading.  I will do my best to present a balanced opinion, but the scales were already pre-weighted, I believe!

Although I have shamefully not read Jane Austen’s Persuasion, I have come to love the story in recent years through retellings and some of the cinematic versions.  While Searching for Captain Wentworth is not a retread of that classic novel, several elements are woven into the story. We have the setting of Bath, England, lovers torn apart over time and space, leaps off the Cobb and much more. A man who could easily stand in for the titular character is frequently about, and as in Persuasion, we root for him to finally be with the woman he loves.

In addition to fans of Persuasion, those who enjoyed Bid Time Return and its film version Somewhere in Time would love this as well. As in Richard Matheson’s tale, Odiwe’s novel has a talisman which affects the time in which the main character inhabits.  In Somewhere in Time, it’s a modern penny which has the unfortunate power to throw Richard Collier back to the present after falling in love while in the past.  In Searching for Captain Wentworth, we have a white glove that has the power to send modern Sophia in either direction—back or forward in time, sometimes with similarly frustrating results.  There’s a yearning there in Sophia’s heart that very much reminds me of the pain that Collier had in his experience.

Jane Austen herself makes appearances frequently in the novel, as do many of her family members.  After just reading an Austen biography not too long ago, I enjoyed spending time with these characters and getting to know them better, with the new perspective that was in my mind. Of course Odiwe takes her own liberties with history, but I think the choices she made with her Jane Austen and family were good ones and certainly possible scenarios for our beloved authoress. I’m also pleased that her brother Charles was such a prominent character, and even wish he had been given more time on the page.

In the interest of a completely honest, balanced review, I can say that Searching for Captain Wentworth is not my favorite of Jane Odiwe’s as far as her style of writing. There seemed to be a different tone this time around.  There was a bit more emphasis on describing the minute details of each environment, and at times I felt this slowed down the story.  Others may appreciate this attention however, as it does allow the reader to feel more ingrained within the scenes.  There also seemed to be an inexplicable shortage for commas from time to time, but if that is my most powerful complaint, Mrs. Odiwe is doing just fine.

Searching for Captain Wentworth is an excellent choice for a wide array of readers. It’s a sweet, clean love story.  It’s a time-travel science fiction fantasy.  And it allows us to once again transport ourselves into the world of Jane Austen and her characters.  So many elements come together in a lovely mixture of literary delights.  Jane Odiwe has given her readers their very own talisman with which they can be delivered into a world that has been, and will continue to be, savored time and time again.

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  1. nice review. i liked how you mentioned Somewhere in Time as i like that movie and can get what you're saying in connection.



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