Wednesday 13 November 2019

There's Something About Darcy by Dr Gabrielle Malcolm - Blog Tour - Review

Blog Tour: There's Something About Darcy by Dr Gabrielle Malcolm
Today the blog tour stops here for Dr Gabrielle Malcolm's There's Something About Darcy. As you will know, Mr Darcy is something of a remarkable character. Even people who shun 'romantic' novels know his name. He is a by-word for the epitome of the perfect romantic hero - many people are searching for their Mr Darcy in a world of Wickhams.

The vast majority of Austenesque works are based on Pride & Prejudice, and part of that is down to the appeal of its hero. But why is Mr Darcy the chosen one rather than the more amiable Bingley, witty Tilney, dashing Wentworth or gentlemanly Mr Knightley? I have my own theories, as I am sure you do, and I was interested to see what Gabrielle Malcolm's theories are. Let's look at the blurb, and then I will share my review with you.

Book cover: There's Something About Darcy by Dr Gabrielle Malcolm
Book Description

For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. But what is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

Dr Gabrielle Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel and will defend their choice passionately.

In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

There's Something About Darcy by Dr Gabrielle Malcolm

My favourite of Jane Austen's heroes has always been Mr Darcy. Despite my love of the others (well, some of the others, because I'm a bit lukewarm about Edmund Bertram and Edward Ferrars!), he's been the one for me. I know why that is, but I was interested to see somebody else's hypothesis, so I was keen to read Gabrielle Malcolm's book on this.

It's a fairly long book and it's clear that a lot of research has gone into this. The book begins by putting Darcy in a bit of context, comparing him with book heroes of the time, such as those in the works of Samuel Richardson and Mrs Radcliffe. Pride & Prejudice's popularity at the time was far more driven by public feeling about the heroine rather than the hero, as it was for me when I first read the book. Elizabeth is the main character after all!

We then take a trip through books to see how the hero evolved from Georgian sensibilities through to Victorian ones. I could see the links that the author was making but I didn't necessarily agree with her on all of this! Although Darcy has some traits that could be defined as Byronic, I wouldn't categorise him as such and for me, there is too much of a gap between Mr Darcy and a hero of a Brontë novel to say that they are of the same type, although I suppose you could argue that the Brontës may have felt that they were righting Austen's wrongs, as Charlotte at least was on record as feeling that Austen's books were lacking in passion.

Mrs Gaskell's Mr Thornton, from North and South is compared to Rochester in this book, but to me, he is far more of a direct comparator to Darcy. Their control, resolve and above all, pride are so comparable.

Once we've passed through the Victorian period we look at the 20th century, and the revival of interest in the Georgian/Regency period that was brought about by Georgette Heyer.

Dr Malcolm also considers the adaptations of Pride & Prejudice that have been made, looking at 1940, 1980, 1995 and 2005. I would say that the comments made in relation to the adaptations were balanced, which will please most fans, as so many have a passionate favourite.  I think it's fair to say that the most recent period of Darcy-mania was sparked by the 1995 adaptation, which brought the character of Darcy more to the co-star status rather than the supporting actor. There were a number of interesting factoids in this section, which I hadn't been aware of previously, such as Darcy's physical views of Elizabeth at the beginning were mostly from above, and as time goes on and he regards himself less as her superior, the characters are physically more on a level to emphasise this. I also liked the points about a lot of the Darcy scenes don't have dialogue, so it's not making up any dialogue that Austen didn't write, but still increasing the role of the character.

Book Cover: There's Something About Darcy by Dr Gabrielle MalcolmAlthough there was Austenesque fiction, or Jane Austen Fan Fiction before the 1995 P&P adaptation, there was a bit of an increase after this date, and Ms Malcolm also discusses one of the fanfiction sites and moves on to look at fanfic in both books and other media (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) and some fanfic adaptations (Austenland etc). For long term readers of the genre there were gaps in this part, for example, a fanfic site was discussed as if it was the only one, but as a reader of Austenesque fiction and one who started reading it online it's one I've never visited, and I've seen other sites referenced more often. Similarly, there were some authors who I feel are very influential who weren't mentioned; the focus in this book is more on traditionally published books. The flip side of this is I learned about some books I hadn't ever come across previously, which I found interesting, although the book in question, Darcy's Utopia, by Fay Weldon, sounds pretty disturbing and not one I plan to add to my TBR!

One thing I would mention is that the plots of the books are all discussed, and if you haven't read all of them and intend to, some surprises may be spoiled for you, such as plot twists, identities of killers, secret identities etc. It may also put you off reading some of the books discussed - for example, a few years before I read Jane Eyre somebody told me the main plot points. It made me not want to read the book, which would have been a huge shame, as it's a fantastic novel, but a synopsis doesn't do it justice!

The book also considers an issue that I hadn't particularly considered:
The Darcy Problem... what do we make of an arrogant, obnoxious and overly entitled hero?
I don't really see him that way, although when you think about it it's not an entirely unfair comment! I think in an historic context some of those characteristics are less problematic for authors - the master of an estate has to be confident, and given the structure of society, a feeling of superiority is more understandable, even if it's not vastly attractive! To keep enough of Darcy in a modern Darcy and still have a likeable hero can be a finer balance!

I'll leave you with two quotes which give you more of my idea of what makes Darcy such a compelling hero:

Darcy's ability to change his views, modify his opinions - for example, developing respect for the Bennet family - and learn from his mistakes have powerfully impressed readers for the past 200 years. He grows and transforms before our eyes. He is reinvented throughout the course of the narrative into an ideal form of a man. 
He enables writers to represent stories that circulate around change for the better, redemption, men with means who seek sincerity over superficiality, and strong heroes who can say: "I'm sorry, I was wrong."
In summary, I found this a very worthwhile read. Clearly a lot of research has gone into it and it gave me a lot of food for thought. I'd rate it as a 4 star read.

4 star read

*My thanks go to the publishers, Endeavour Quill, who provided me with an ebook of There's Something About Darcy for my honest review.

Author Dr Gabrielle Malcolm
Author Bio

Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm lectures and writes about Jane Austen in popular culture and the global fan phenomena surrounding Austen’s work. She is the author of Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen and is a regular speaker at the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, and the Jane Austen Regency Week in Chawton. She lives in Bath.

Buy Links

There's Something About Darcy is available to buy now, in both ebook and paperback - Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Add to Goodreads Shelf

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Blog Tour Schedule

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  1. Very insightful review, Ceri. I like that this book sounds balanced and thorough though not exhaustive. Good to know that I should skip the synopses of all those books if I want to read them.

    1. Hi Sophia. Glad the reminder was helpful. I would hate for somebody to be taken unawares and have a book spoiled for them! I've read a few articles and comments where the twist ending of something has been ruined, and it's such a shame.

  2. Thanks for this Ceri. I was lucky enough to meet the author in September at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and was given a proof copy which I just finished reading the other day.

    I do agree with a lot of what Gabrielle Malcolm says, but like you I would have liked some self-published authors of JAFF to get a mention. I did especially enjoy her analysis of Darcy in relation to the original text at the beginning. She made plenty of spot on comments. This book was well worth a read.

    1. Hi Elaine. I would have preferred more self-published authors to be included, or even ones who have been published but have also chosen to self-publish, like Abigail Reynolds.

      Glad you enjoyed reading the book too!

  3. So happy to read some of your reviews, Ceri! That is really good to warn about the synopses! And I am with you, I won't be adding Darcy's Utopia to my TBR! Thanks so much for sharing this great review!

    1. Thanks Meredith! I'm sure we both have plenty on our TBRs without adding Darcy's Utopia to them - it doesn't sound like my cup of tea!

  4. Great review, Ceri! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Looking forward to reading this!

    1. Hi Joana. I hope you enjoy it when you read it. I believe you are friends with Mira Magdo, she gets a mention :)


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