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?
Proud, aloof, and emotionally distant. Any modern woman in her right mind would, you think, reject Mr Darcy – and his ten thousand a year – quicker than Lizzie Bennet turns down Mr Collins. And yet we (and I include myself in this collective ‘we’) seem to adore the man more than ever.
Whether it’s Matthew Macfadyen strolling through a misty field, Colin Firth emerging from a lake, or Bridget Jones’ very own Mark Darcy bringing Regency romance to modern-day London, there really is something about Darcy. And Gabrielle Malcolm is determined to find out what.
There’s Something About Darcy is an extensive examination of the enduring appeal of Austen’s most famous aristocratic hero. Written with a scholar’s eye for detail whilst retaining a light and engaging tone throughout, Dr Malcolm breaks down and analyses the various portrayals of Mr Darcy on screen, as well as the inventive directions that Austenesque writers have taken the character.
From Bollywood hero to vampire slayer (and even vampire!) Darcy has been re-imagined in every possible way and it was fascinating to consider the impact of these portrayals on our perception of the character – and how they might have added to the endurance of his appeal.
I would, however, have liked a little more discussion about the modern adaptations that reinterpret Darcy through the lens of another culture, and more consideration of why we continue to seek out romantic heroes who exhibit such problematic character traits.
In the latter portion of the book, Dr Malcolm also considers the relationship between Darcy and other popular romantic heroes – Mr Rochester, Heathcliff, Edward Cullen, Dracula, Christian Grey – as well as the heroes of some lesser-known (by modern audiences at least) Regency romances written by Austen’s contemporaries.
Whilst I felt that these chapters provided an interesting insight into the way in which various societies and eras construct and interpret ‘heroes’, I wasn’t sure that the discussions always succeeded in shedding new light upon Austen’s hero and this section of the book, for me anyway, wasn’t quite as successful as the chapters that focus primarily on Austen’s hero.
That said, considering other examples of ‘Darcy-like’ characters did illustrate how the prevalence of the Darcy archetype became established in popular culture – and how the numerous adaptations and reinterpretations of the character, both in print and on the screen, have allowed Darcy to take precedence over other romantic leads who exhibit similar traits.
Although literary scholars and die-hard Janeites may find themselves wanting a bit more meat on the bones in some places, for most readers who have a soft spot for Austen’s aloof heroine, There’s Something About Darcy is sure to both entertain and inform in equal measure.
Written with a scholar’s eye for detail whilst retaining the explanations of key plots and characters needed to hold the interest of a general reader, There’s Something About Darcy is a lively, informative and engrossing read.
There’s Something About Darcy by Gabrielle Malcolm is published by Endeavour Media and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
My thanks go to Hannah Groves from Endeavour Media for providing an advanced copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 November so do check out the other stops along the way for more reviews and content!