A Review of There’s Something About Darcy: by Gabrielle Malcolm
by Jane Austen Book Club reviewer, Lucie Rivet
How excited I was when I opened this package, coming all the way from Bath into my Governors Bay mailbox, down-under. I had applied to review this book, and was so grateful to have been picked even though I live in New-Zealand.
Second source of joy: the cover. This bright pink is vibrant and the raised lettering and silhouette make holding the book a lovely and surprisingly tactile experience.
I read the first pages while on an inflatable device my very own Darcy bought for me so I can read in the lake swimming pool. (Believe it or not but my Darcy actually fell in the lake pool with a white shirt when he set it up for me so I can start my reading. I saw it as a sign.)
So, I started reading, and didn’t stop, for three hours in a row. It was like diving back into the worlds of my favourite writers of when I was a teenager: Jane Austen of course, but also Charlotte Brontë and Dame Daphne du Maurier.
I really appreciated reading what Doctor Gabrielle Malcolm had to say, she who had not only seemingly read these authors with great pleasure too, but also has a very impressive academic knowledge that she is sharing as she would with a friend – from one fan to another.
Never pompous, always so well documented and accurate (as far as I can tell), the author loves what you love, but you are also learning so much from her! And she does it in a fun and engaging way, always.
I was so interested for instance to learn how the Brontë sisters responded to Jane’s work, or just about Jane’s childhood, and where the influences to build Darcy’s character can be found. Finding out secret links between people and characters that you love is quite exhilarating!
Keeping on reading, I then discovered many books and authors I had never heard of. I’m French, and Pimpernel, for instance, is not a well known hero in France, as you can imagine.
I really appreciated the study of Darcy’s dressing habits, and all I’ve learnt about English fashion, customs, literature and history.
The chapter on the film adaptations is very pleasurable to read, and full of details and insight that made me want to watch them again, which we did, with even greater pleasure.
I was absolutely astonished about all the fan fiction Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm is mentioning. I confess I had no idea that there were prequels, sequels and adaptations that had been created by fans all around the world of pretty much all the Jane Austen novels. The author also shares with us the response of the community of “Janeites” to these attempts.
The one thing that I found a bit surprising, it is that the author gives away a lot of plot twists and endings and many pages are dedicated to summarising stories of books. And I’m not sure why because: either the reader has already read this book, and doesn’t need a summary, or he hasn’t read it yet, and then he wouldn’t want the twists to be spoiled.
So I confess I skipped bits and pieces here and there when I didn’t want to know the end of a story that I might enjoy reading some time. It is not a big problem though as the book is well structured and it is easy to know where to resume reading.
Overall I definitely recommend the reading of this book to anyone who loves Jane Austen’s world. Doctor Gabrielle Malcolm manages to reconcile being knowledgeable, reliable, engaging and fun. And that makes for a very special and enjoyable read.
Sanditon is the last novel that Jane Austen ever worked on, though not one that she finished. Have you read it? Do you know it? Time to test your knowledge with our Sanditon special quiz!
The theme of this week’s quiz is gardens! Are you a big Austen fan? Can you correctly answer these ten garden-related questions about Jane Austen’s novels?
How well do you know the family connections in the novels of Jane Austen? Time once more to test your Jane Austen knowledge!
Test yourself with questions about Catherines and Janes.
In this week’s Jane Austen Quiz, we will take a look the various locations used in the films and mentioned in the books. Score 8/10 or better and you’ll be in with a chance to win a £10 voucher for our Online Gift Shop in our monthly quiz prize draw!
If you’d like to see your scores without entering the competition, just scroll to the bottom of the page after entering the last question and hit the submit button!
Every year hundreds of thousands of fans come together to The Jane Austen Centre in Bath to celebrate the talent and artistry of Jane Austen, but for those who work at the Centre there can sometimes be occasion to stop and marvel at the incredible works of devotion created by our visitors. An exceptional instance of this came to us this summer in the story of Julie Mountford.
Julie’s husband Keith wrote to us in a heartwarming email this year to describe the predicament of his late wife’s own Austen-inspired ‘amateur’ masterpiece: a Georgian dolls house. As part of her passion and love of all things Georgian, Regency and Jane Austen, Julie crafted this 1.6m tall house over a period of five years. It contains eighteen rooms (five of which are large hallways typical of the Georgian era) and each room has been lovingly filled with tiny furniture of the same period. Keith described how ‘everyone who has ever seen the house has been gobsmacked by its beauty and by Julie’s attention to detail’ and we found ourselves similarly enchanted.
Sadly Julie passed away in March 2015 after having lived with cancer for five years. Keith described how Julie had been a mental health social worker by profession and was also an extremely talented and creative person, writing period novels in her spare time as well as sewing beautiful historical-attired cloth dolls as gifts; one of these has even found a home in our Exhibition at the Jane Austen Centre, a place that Julie loved and visited many times in her visits to Bath.
Keith generously offered for this magnificent work to be displayed at the Centre so that it might ‘inform, educate and entertain’ as is our mission statement and was also Julie’s passion. Unfortunately, we were unable to give a home to her beautiful Jane Austen Dolls house but we hope that in sharing this story we can echo Keith’s wish that it serves as an example of ‘what an ordinary person with a passion can design and create as part of their love of all things Austen’.
Please visit www.juliemountford.org to learn more about the Julie Montford Dawson Foundation.