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There’s Something About Darcy Review

A Review of There’s Something About Darcy: by Gabrielle Malcolm

by Jane Austen Book Club reviewer, Lucie Rivet

Click here to buy There’s Something About Darcy from our online gift shop.

There's Something about DarcyHow 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.

****

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Mr Bennet In Bath – Charles Nevin

Mr Bennet

MR BENNET IN BATH

Ladies and gentlemen, admirers of Jane and lovers of literature, I give you the true hero of Pride and Prejudice – and of possibly the entire Austen canon – Mr Bennet!

For who else can compare with the Sage Seer of Longbourn, that Witty King of Herts, that most rueful of husbands, fathers and philosophers?

Sometimes in BathNo character from the pen of Miss Austen is a mere cypher or convenient foil. Even the haughty stuff shirts and dissembling charmers have beguiling depths. But for rueful complexities, admirable strengths and regretful weaknesses, Mr Bennet is surely as alone as he likes to be in his library.

I have long been his admirer, mostly for the delicious wit, but it wasn’t until I decided to star him in a short story that I fully appreciated as rounded a character as you will encounter in fiction, portrayed by Jane with an affection that triumphantly survives her beady acknowledgement of his failings.

When the great crisis of Lydia and Wickham erupts it is the Austen wizardry to make his feebleness not only a surprise, but also to make us feel sorry for him. And how much more predictable it would have been to transform him into the hero of the hour! Not for the first time you wonder how close the Reverend George Austen is to Mr Bennet. And how being a father of a certain type yourself fosters your affection.

Whatever, I decided that he could certainly do with a bit more fun, and that there was no finer place to give it to him than Bath, where he has arrived – reluctantly, obviously – for a stay with his wife and daughters.

But first there is my account of his first visit, as a young man, which had at least one highly significant consequence. Among the characters he encounters are Dr Johnson, James Boswell and that notorious Bath highwayman, Sixteen String Jack Rann.

Mr Bennet
Charles Nevin

From there we move to his present day, and an escape from the back window of the house – unsurprisingly in Gay Street – and back down to the famous Pelican inn, which stood where now the Hilton Hotel stands in all its not universally praised modernity.

Obviously I cannot give too much away, but he does have a narrow escape from a fate even worse than having to make small talk with Fitzwilliam Darcy, take tea a deux with Lady Catherine de Bourg, or witness Mr Collins meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I must also confess to another impudence: I have given Mr Bennet a first name! Gordon and Alan had their merits, but in the end I settled on Anthony, for the euphony.

So, apologies all round to all; but I also like to imagine the perceptible uplift of Mrs Bennet’s husband’s eyebrows at these liberties. And Miss Austen’s, together with, I hope, the trace of a smile.

Charles Nevin is an award-winning journalist, national newspaper columnist, author and humorist.

*Get a signed copy of Charles Nevin’s book here.*

 

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Ten things you might not know about Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

As the anniversary of the publication of Jane’s debut novel approaches on October 30th, we bring you ten facts that you might not know about Sense and Sensibility!

 

1) Jane’s first full length novel was originally known as Elinor and Marianne and told its story through a series of correspondances. Cassandra recalls Jane reading this novel to her family some 15 years prior to the publishing of Sense and Sensibility, although it’s unclear how much the novel changed in the intervening period.

 

2) Jane is said to have strongly believed that one should only marry where there is genuine affection. It is suggested that Jane is writing autobiographically when Elinor Dashwood ruminates on “the worst and most irremediable of all evils, a connection for life” with an unsuitable man.

 

3) Sense and Sensibility was published by Thomas Egerton on a commission basis. That is to say that the financial risk would have laid with Jane if the book had been unsuccessful .

 

4) To maximise his commission profit on the book, Egerton printed it onto expensive paper and sold the three volume tome for 15 shillings.

 

5) The first edition of Sense and Sensibility is estimated to have comprised of between 700 and 1000 copies.

 

6) Austen made the princely sum of £140 from sales of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility.

 

7) Very few people knew the author’s identity. Copies of Sense and Sensibility listed its author as A Lady and her subsequent books were attributed to The Author of Sense and Sensibility. It wasn’t until after her death that Jane’s name appeared on any of her books.

 

8) Dame Emma Thompson took five years to develop the screenplay for 1995’s big screen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Her work paid off though, as it earned her an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a nomination for Best Actress. Emma remains the only person to win an Oscar for both screenwriting and acting.

 

9) The first French translation of Sense and Sensibility was written by Madame Isabelle de Montoliue, who had only a basic grasp of the English language. As such, this translation followed Jane’s original story only very loosely with key lines and even whole scenes changed.

 

10) The Prince Regent was one of the first purchasers of Sense and Sensibility, having bought a copy two days before it was first advertised. Jane despised the Prince, but agreed to dedicate her fourth novel, Emma, to him.

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An Evening of Emma in Fort George

Jane Austen superpowers in Emma

An Evening of Emma in Fort George

Jane Austen Summer BallAt the Jane Austen News we love hearing about celebrations of Jane that happen all around the world. Because as much as we might wish all of Jane’s fans could come to Bath for our Jane Austen Festival in September, we know that there are many who can’t. So it’s wonderful to know that there are events dedicated to Jane Austen taking place in countries around the world. On that note, for any fans of Jane Austen who live near Ontario, Canada, this coming event on May 26th might be a good one to go to.

Continue reading An Evening of Emma in Fort George

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Pride and Prejudice vs. Jane Eyre

Jane Austen News

Pride and Prejudice vs. Jane Eyre

1463668501091.0As two of the most popular novels of all time, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have an incredible number of spin-off books written about them. Two of the books tipped to be summer bestsellers this year are Eligible – a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Steele – a modern retelling of Jane Eyre. But do they both work in the modern era?

Continue reading Pride and Prejudice vs. Jane Eyre

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Lady Susan Gets the Ending She Deserves?

Jane Austin News

Lady Susan Gets the Ending She Deserves?

3000Now to a retelling of a different kind. Lady Susan, the epistolary novella Jane Austen wrote in her youth, will soon be coming to the cinemas in the form of Whit Stillman’s new film Love and Friendship, and John Mullan, author of the book What Matters in Jane Austen?, has been looking at whether the story lives up to Austen’s other work.

Continue reading Lady Susan Gets the Ending She Deserves?

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Jane and Fringe Theatre and Puppets

Jane Austen News

Jane and Fringe Theatre and Puppets

NORTHANGER-ABBEY-Box-Tale-Soup.-700x455As part of Brighton’s 2016 Fringe Festival, the theatre company Box Tale Soup performed their adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It’s not like your average stage adaptation though. This one has been done with puppets. Which for some people will be a really interesting and fun change, but the show is a bit like Marmite – you’ll either love it or hate it.

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Fashion and Mourning in Lady Susan

Jane Austin News

Fashion and Mourning in Lady Susan

love-and-friendship-image-16Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, the costume designer for the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, has been speaking about the choices she made to show Lady Susan’s transition from mourning widow to social butterfly.

Continue reading Fashion and Mourning in Lady Susan