5 Stars Out Of 5
A scene by scene re-enactment you'll love!
July 14, 2014
"First impressions can be dangerous and people are not always who they seem to be." [from the back cover]
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is pretty much a staple for those of us who love historical romance novels. Literary experts tell us that Austen developed the pattern for romance stories that touch the readers' hearts most, a pattern modern stories still follow today more than 200 years later. Austen wanted her readers to experience the "happily ever after" ending that she herself never experienced. The most recent film adaptation has refreshed the popularity of the tale for romantics of all ages and backgrounds so much that once you begin reading First Impressions, you may very well hear the actors' voices playing the parts out in your mind, as I did. That's because this book is a scene by scene re-enactment of the movie, modified to fit into the Amish lifestyle. It's a remarkable fit.
The Blank family (the Bennett counterparts) lives in the small farming community of Leola in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Their 100-acre farm is kept by the father and his five daughters. Lizzie, the second eldest, enjoys working outside at her daed's side. The remaining girls assist their maem inside. Lately, it seems her maem is so preoccupied with finding her dochders husbands that Lizzie is happy to be outside away from the constant speculation and match-making attentions. All that changes when a distant cousin from Ohio writes of his intention to return to a neighboring farm. The women are thrown into a flurry of preparations and anticipation, especially when the Amish grapevine buzzes with rumors of not just two, but three eligible bachelors to arrive on the farm.
The dochders' first glimpse of the Beacheys (the Bingley counterparts) is in church one Sunday. Jane, the shy sister, is immediately drawn to Charles Beachey. His sister, however, seems to hold their little community in disdain. And Lizzie's impression of Charles' silent friend, Frederick, is of a similar attitude. She does not like Frederick (the Darcie counterpart) at all. So when a severe thunderstorm and a twisted ankle strands Jane at the Beachey farm, Lizzie is determined to rescue her sister. Conflicts and misunderstandings seem to keep surfacing between the disparate parties. Would harmony ever settle between the two families and their friends?
I love how this classic tale fits so well into an Amish setting. The author has done a remarkable job of creating a realistic set of circumstances and personalities that mirror Pride and Prejudice so closely. For me, the similarities were often hilarious, or at least afforded an occasional chuckle or two. But beyond the humor, I could also see how well Christian themes of good character, godly lifestyle, worship of God, charity, selflessness, sacrifice, family, and behind-the-scenes good works were woven into the tale and served as the meat on the bones of a classic work. The misunderstandings were smoke screens that hid the depth of character until main players were compelled to face their faulty assumptions and re-evaluate themselves.
Another aspect of this adaptation I particularly enjoyed was the rich descriptions of daily Amish life on the farm, the inclusion of Amish terminology and vocabulary, and an up close and personal glimpse of the weekly worship services. All this combined with a winning plot line made reading this book so enjoyable.
What endeared this story most to me was the way the author solved the tension between the sharp-tongued, quick-witted Elizabeth and the quiet, stoic person of Frederick Detweiler. Action often speak louder than words, especially in romance fiction. When Lizzie and Frederick exchanged bitter words, it was the Ohio Amish man's silent actions that eventually won over her stubborn resistance. It's my favorite part of the book and so credibly Amish that it breathes new life into the familiar classic.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Booketeria on behalf of Charisma Media/Realms. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."