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Gabrielle Malcolm – There’s Something About Darcy

Book Cover

The world has loved him ardently.

Publisher: Endeavour Quill
Pages: 197
Type: Non-Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-911-44556-2
First Published: 11th November 2019
Date Reviewed: 13th November 2019
Rating: 3/5

For over 200 years (since 1813), Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy has captured readers’ and audience’s hearts. Malcolm looks at the character’s popularity from those first readers to the present day.

Malcolm begins incredibly well. Her premise is intriguing – specific yet broad-reaching. She has chosen a casual style of writing that, whilst perhaps out of the norm, makes the book very accessible; for all it is studious, it’s anything but dry.

The first few chapters look into the basics, with some depth, of the interest in Darcy, the social and literary scene and expectations of Austen’s time, and the writer’s influences. Malcolm detours into accounts of people you might not normally associate as influences – theatre and fashion icons for example – and the ways Austen contributed to the literary culture beyond her work. Favourite authors are looked at, favourite books and their relevant aspects discussed with aplomb.

From here, Malcolm moves on to those who wrote after Austen. She looks at Charlotte Brontë’s response to reading Austen’s books and the way her own writing was different (and the way she thought she herself was different – Brontë did not like Austen at all). This is where the book is perhaps at its best, peppered with details. Less appealing are the comparisons between Darcy and later heroes and anti-heroes – for all Malcolm’s analysis, it’s difficult to see where she is coming from in comparing Darcy to Heathcliff and Dracula. The comparison with Mr Rochester is a more interesting debate.

Unfortunately, when the book moves on from the nineteenth century it loses its way. It does look at the genre of romance fiction as a whole through the passing of the centuries and the derision writers and readers find – this is excellent – but it quickly becomes waylaid by summaries of other books. Where Malcolm has chosen to look at Darcy fandom solely in derivative works, her research becomes bogged down by it. Beyond the look at TV and film adaptations, which holds interesting facts, you’d be forgiven for wondering when the regurgitation of book plots will end and the book will move on – the problem is it doesn’t. This said, the first half is well worth reading and fans of Austen will find new ideas of interest in it.

I received this book for review.

 
 

Lisbeth @ The Content Reader

November 20, 2019, 12:02 pm

Interesting analyses. As a fan of Darcy, I think I have to read this book. I agree with you, not to compare Darcy with Heathcliff and Dracula. Rochester a better comparison.
I wonder why the Brontës did not like Austen? Maybe because her heroines were moving in another world than the Brontës. Austen’s books seem lighter and brighter, then the darkness of the books of the Brontë sisters. I am saying this as a fan of both the Brontës and Austen.

Charlie

November 25, 2019, 2:52 pm

Lisbeth: I think you’d find it worthwhile looking at a copy Charlotte’s letters – her correspondence with her publisher. In short, Austen was everything she disliked in books, but it is worth reading the opinions in her own words. Yes, lack of understanding was a lot of it (she wouldn’t have said she didn’t ‘get it’ though, of course!) I’m a fan of both too, you don’t have to dislike one and like the other… just don’t tell Charlotte that…

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