By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Let’s start with some disclosures:

  1. I have only ever read Persuasion once …in high school. This was back when I was trying to prove myself an intellectual and dabbling in the classics. I do not remember the story at all, and I am guessing I didn’t understand the book at the time. So I could benefit from a re-read.
  2. I have read Pride & Prejudice more than once. I have also watched the movie (Keira Knightley version) multiple times. I can probably read the book and watch the movie a few more times and and still fawn over Mr. Darcy.
  3. I am not above reading chick-lit. I am a sucker for rom-coms and chick-lit. Granted, I can restrain myself from purchasing these (hello, Netflix & SFPL!), but I will still consume them. Actually I think people should get off their high horses and get over themselves. Romance and YA are just as entertaining as other genres, just in a different way.

Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, I can start raving about the book. Ya, that’s right—raving. I loved it. I absolutely enjoyed the book. Perhaps it’s due in some part to the fact that I have zero memory of Persuasion, so I cannot say “the original was better.” Well it was a blessing in disguise because I wasn’t constantly comparing the two books.

Ya, so in case it hasn’t clicked just yet,  By the Book is a modern retelling of Persuasion, and I guess a little bit of not. The story makes many references to Persuasion, as it is the main character’s favorite book of all time, so in a way, it’s a bit meta. I like it. Not a vanilla retelling.


That the story is set in contemporary time makes the main character more relatable. Maybe a little too relatable? Or relatable enough because not everyone has the benefit of having a gay bff. But here: Anne is a 32 y/o English professor (OK, maybe not the profession) who grew up reading Austen. She’s dedicated to her career and is looking for true love because whoever wants to be forever alone? Not me, I can relate a little too much.

On the other hand, I read Eligible some time last year and had a bit of a hard time appreciating it. (I’m talking about the Pride & Prejudice retelling, hence, disclosure #2.) It was too over the top, especially when it came to Jane and Mr. Bingley. What??? Too extra. Don’t get me wrong—I laughed at some parts, just not all. The other times I was thinking: OK, this is pushing it.

Reading By the Book actually makes me want to re-read Persuasion. I have a collection of Austen’s works on my bookshelf, so I think I’ll pull it out soon. At least this time I’ll know what’s going on when I’m reading the book. Ready for ya, Austen.

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