Review: By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancé has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past…and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

By the Book will be available February 6, 2018.

Persuasion is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels and I am always ready to jump on board a re-telling. Unfortunately, By the Book did not really live up to my expectations.

One thing that I thought was really odd for a re-telling is that the main character, Anne, is a college lit professor and teaches on authors such as Jane Austen. Also, Anne’s favorite book is Persuasion. I have never seen the actual source material referenced in a re-telling. At first I thought maybe it was just going to be really meta or something, but Anne never references how her life is paralleling her favorite novel. To be fair, though, there were very few instances that really resembled it.

The Anne of this book was not nearly as likable as Anne from Persuasion. She was short tempered and kind of whiney. I did not like her best friend, Larry, at all. He was very over-dramatic and he was also having an affair with a closeted married man. Anne was friends with that man’s wife and she didn’t seem to find anything wrong with what Larry was doing and the whole storyline very greatly frustrated me. Anne dates an author and fellow visiting professor, Rick, for most of the book and he was another awful person. The only character I really liked was Adam (our Captain Wentworth). He never really did anything wrong the whole book and in my opinion was way too good for Anne.

Overall, I found By the Book really disappointing. I didn’t think there were enough recognizable parts from Persuasion that I like to see in re-tellings and just couldn’t get over how odd it was that Jane Austen and the actual book were referenced so often. I’m adding an extra half-star to my rating, though, because the writing itself wasn’t that bad and it did include a version of my favorite part of Persuasion– the letter.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

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12 thoughts on “Review: By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

  1. Hmm it’s a bit tongue in cheek to make a retelling with referencing to the original.. I’d like that, but it has to be done right of course.. I get a feeling this one missed the mark a bit. I wasn’t inclined to pick it up anyway but the title drew my attention to it and I wanted to check it out :-). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I was super drawn in by the title, the cover, and the fact that its (supposedly) a Persuasion re-telling. Its unfortunate it didn’t meet your expectations because it seems to have so much potential! It would very much bug me about the whole best friend / affair thing, especially if she doesn’t see anything wrong with it! Great review!

  3. Oh yikes… sorry this one fell off the mark for you. I don’t know much about retellings but your point is interesting about the direct references.
    Being able to like characters always helps as well when reading a book and liking only 1 out of 3 is a ratio that warrants a lower score!

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