Sunday, November 02, 2014

Book Reviews: "Gutenberg's Apprentice" and "First Impressions"

A couple new biblio-novels have made appearances recently:

Alix Christie's Gutenberg's Apprentice (HarperCollins) is a fictionalized account of the Gutenberg workshop in Mainz during the production of the 42-line Bible. The story is told from the perspective of the eponymous apprentice, Peter Schoeffer, and Christie has at least to a significant degree tried to get the details right. She hasn't always succeeded, alas, and the actual plot of the novel is pretty lackluster, but Christie's writing is lovely and makes this historical reconstruction entirely worth a read. The contextualization of Gutenberg's (and Fust and Schoeffer's) work within the political and religious upheaval of 1450s Mainz alone would recommend it to anyone interested in the period.

Charlie Lovett has followed his The Bookman's Tale with First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen (Viking). Aside from the primal screams I must force myself to swallow every time an otherwise-sympathetic character in one of these novels steals a rare book or manuscript (surely, dear authors, there must be other ways to accomplish these things!) I quite liked this book as a biblio-mystery: it's got good characters, a quasi-believable plot, and a reasonable mystery with a healthy number of red herrings swimming around for good measure, even if the whole thing does follow a fairly obvious formula. I'm sure there's lots more fan service to Janeites in here than I caught, but the biblio-bits are quite nicely handled.

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