The Darcy Myth by Rachel Feder

Note: I occasionally accept review copies from the publisher. Posts written from review copies are labeled. All opinions are my own. Posts may contain affiliate links. I may receive compensation for any purchased items.

Mr. Darcy: the swoon-worthy hero we all are waiting for. But maybe not? In The Darcy Myth: Jane Austen, Literary Heartthrobs, and the Monsters They Taught Us To Love (Quirk Books, November 2023), literature scholar Rachel Feder retells this narrative in a more accurate way. With an abundance of humor and with plenty of modern examples, Feder points out the inconsistencies between our Jane Austen heroes and the realities of relationships.

With pointed comparisons to Gothic literature and Jane Austen’s contemporary novelists, as well as modern television and movie examples, Feder helped me I gain a new perspective on the romantic troupe that is so familiar in not just our novels but our entire society. A cranky guy with a past changes to become the hero that our heroine loved all along: most likely the unfriendly guys we meet will remain that way. We can’t change other people in our relationships.

Feder included tons of modern references, from reality television to personal interviews, that parallel the Darcy story. She also included plenty of details and summaries from other Gothic and Romantic literature from Austen’s own era, as well as real people, like Lord Byron. I’ll admit, I am not culturally literate with relation to reality television (or much of any television). While I also was not overly familiar with the literary and Romantic era discussions, I certain could relate a lot better to that portion of the book than the modern references.

With a very appealing layout, the book introduced these literary characters (both modern media and old) with sidebars and humor. The entire book had a humorous approach to the subject and Feder’s unbridled tongue is sure to be a hit with the younger crowd. I was a bit put off by some references and especially by the cursing. This is a modern book about literary criticism for a new generation. It certain makes her argument easily accessible, and does not feel academic in any way (even though it is!).

After reading this book, I have started considering other novels I’ve read with this new perspective. In fact, in the audiobook I just finished listening to with my daughter, I saw the same “Darcy myth” playing out, even though it is not about romance but friendship. (More on this when I review it next week!) The Darcy Myth is an intriguing look at the message in Pride and Prejudice and how it retells a tale as old as time. It’s just that the “tale as old as time” is not really a good message at all.

Don’t worry: it’s okay to still love Darcy. But this book gives a memorable new perspective. I think it is a lot of fun, even though the pop culture references and super casual tone made me feel pretty old.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Reviewed on November 22, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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