The Darcy Conundrum: Unrealistic Expectations of Men Thanks to Fiction

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The Darcy Conundrum: Unrealistic Expectations of Men Thanks to Fiction
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a female reader, in want of a good book, will fall in love with many a fictional man.

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When I was 13 years old, I fell in love with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.

This was to begin a pattern, one that has affected me to this day, and will likely affect me for the years to come.

Relatively new to the world of fiction beyond such childhood classics like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and a Series of Unfortunate Events, Pride and Prejudice had a large impact on me in those formative teenage years. In fact, I would be so bold as to declare that Jane Austen successfully concreted my tastes in fictional men.

The brooding, clever and witty man as beheld in Mr Darcy, became my avidity.

Mr Darcy became a familiar companion to me over my teenage years, as I read and re-read Pride and Prejudice a great deal of times. Every TV series, movie or other pop culture reference was devoured with a similar fervor. I successfully canonized the characteristics and temperament of the dour Mr Darcy, as the base for judgment of a successful gentleman.

As my teenage taste-buds for fiction evolved, my taste for fictional men didn’t. All the characters that I later fell in love with, all held some similarity to our Mr Darcy; brooding Edward Cullen, serious Dimitri Belikov, clever Peeta Melark, the ever brutal Severus Snape and cultured Malfoy boys.

No matter what phase I was going through, Mr Darcy was always in my hind sight.

Because of my adoration for such characteristics, needless to say, I struggled finding boys in the real world who came up to scratch. I often loathed them; concerned only with sports, girls and their friends, these boys were not at all like what I was looking for in a partner. I looked quite intently for my Mr Darcy, but he remained very much at large.

By University, I had stopped looking for him altogether in the real world, but immersed my mind more within his characteristics as compensation. I knew this dream man of mine didn’t exist and wouldn’t come to sweep me away to Pemberly. I grew rather bitter, and after observing my University companions, abruptly fell into a dissatisfied sulk.

I had been ruined by Jane Austen. And all the other authors who had tempted me with sweet words and a heart throb of a hero.

How could a normal man stand up to such high standards and expectations? Real world men were in no competition. Gentlemen like Darcy had long vanished from the world.

My mother was keen to break my fantasy. She frequently worked to break me out of my own head, and had been doing so since I was a little girl. And honestly, I credit her for a chance meeting in early October 2013.

It was late 2013, and I was miserable. I had undergone a large friendship change and was feeling more than a little lonely. My best friend took matters into her own hands and channeled Mrs Bennett for some true match making finesse. The boy she introduced me to bore no resemblance to Mr Darcy what so ever; he was kind, sweet, a little goofy and had an immense passion for everything in the world. With similar interests to mine, we hit it off straight away. We talked for hours. He made me feel warm. He made me smile.

After an immense amount of courting (me doing all the hard yards I’d like to point out- he was utterly clueless), I finally managed to steal him. Benjamin and I became a couple.

Now, after 2 and a bit years of dating my first serious boyfriend, I’ve learned some important things about both myself and my expectations of men in general. I’d also like to point out, that Mr Darcy is still, very much, my fictional boyfriend.

Fiction is an escape, for many people, including myself. In fiction, you can do things that you never can in real life. You can be your favourite heroine or hero in their world; conquering, saving, living. You can be romanced by the dashing love interest. For a few hours, you are limitless and you exist far beyond the square, grey walls of reality.

But, as good as fiction, and Mr Darcy is, reality is sometimes the winner.

Mr Darcy doesn’t hold a candle to Benjamin’s enthusiasm for life. I’ve never met someone so happy and in love with the world around him. You cant help but catch his passion and excitement. It’s nice to put on some rose-coloured glasses every now and then. Benjamin is rarely sad or brooding; his resting face is a smile.

Mr Darcy wouldn’t dutifully and happily follow me around a pop culture convention, helping me lift my long skirts or carry my bag when I stopped to take photos with someone. Benjamin did. And not once did he complain or grumble. He was actually very happy to be there.

Mr Darcy wouldn’t talk with me for hours about whatever random thing popped into his head. He’d tell me to be quiet and not act like Mrs Bennett when the world made me mad. He’d hate it when I go on one of my all famous feminist rants. Benjamin listens to every word and adds in an extra point to give me further ammunition for my arguments.

While Benjamin doesn’t dance, like Mr Darcy, he finds other cute things we can do together instead.

I always know where I stand with Benjamin, and he never broods when something has upset him. I honestly don’t think he has a mean bone in his body and never looses his temper. He provides advice to others, but never pushes them to follow it. And while his dad jokes and puns are god awful, he never gives up and continually tries to get people to like them.

While it seems Mr Darcy is my dream man, he’s certainly not a perfect one. In real life, he’s not the sort of man you would instantly gravitate to. Because, at the end of the day, readers mostly return to reality as preference. Mr Darcy is the sort of boy your mother doesn’t  want you to marry, because, while he’s rich and certainly from good people, he wouldn’t make her comfortable or come round with you for Sunday dinner.

So, we, as the ever devoted readers, are left with a large conundrum. Do we value the fictional man of our dreams over the men of real life who offer a real life end game? When do we need to cut off our high expectations and begin to be more practical? Will we ever find our own Mr Darcy?

The answer is not simple, and in my good opinion, derived entirely from the inner thoughts of the individual.

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Only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony, which is why I will end up an old maid.

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Review: Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M Elliott

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Da Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott

or: Seriously?

Goodreads  ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: The young and beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Ginevra longs to share her poetry and participate in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence but is trapped in an arranged marriage in a society dictated by men. The arrival of the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers. Bembo chooses Ginevra as his Platonic muse and commissions a portrait of her by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them, one Ginevra only begins to understand. In a rich and vivid world of exquisite art with a dangerous underbelly of deadly political feuds, Ginevra faces many challenges to discover her voice and artistic companionship—and to find love.

I don’t know what bugged me more about this book, the main character or the “history” they used to tell a modern teen angst story.

Let me be fair, I got this book as a part of a YA subscription box a while ago. You don’t choose the books, and they come to you relatively fresh off the press to go with the theme of that month’s box. This book came with a cool set of magnets which I employ on a regular basis, but that’s really one of the few benefits that I got from this book.

Before we go any further, I need to point out that I’m a bit of a history snob. History is my thing;- I did my Bachelors degree with a History major and I have always had a strong appreciation for times gone past. Generally, Renaissance history isn’t my thing. I don’t see the romance in it and the great men of that era bore me to tears. But, like all human beings who can appreciate culture, I do admire the art that came out of the Renaissance.

I approached this book with a fair amount of skepticism. Marketed as a feminist leaning book – IT WAS NOT, DON’T LIE TO US- this book contradicts itself more than it has any right to do so. The most powerful line in the book was the opening line, hijacked from a pre-existing poem. It’s almost impossible to believe that the main character- the teeth grinding Ginevra- is the poet behind it.

Elliott seemed to change her mind about where this book was going about 10 times during the course of the novel. I was promised a complex and rich historical novel. That is not what I got.

Elliott has researched her subject matter… mostly. She gives us a watery and very simple story that she expects us to easily follow. This history isn’t ground breaking. This is the sort of ‘Reign’ history we are starting to see on mainstream historical dramas. I wanted a ‘Outlander’ style of history; with questions asked and things rigorously looked into. A western owned Italian chain restaurant has more connections to Italian history than this does.

It’s a damn shame because Elliott had the potential to achieve so much. Cutting away all the love-triangles, cliches, false Italiano and teen drama, there was a good solid base of a story. I wanted to know more about the Convent she grew up in. I wanted to know about her husband, when they met, what he was like actually. I wanted to see the gradual bloom of a relationship. I wanted to see a strong, time accurate woman who pushed limits.

Do not be fooled, dear reader by the blurb;- the blurb writer didn’t read the story at all and painted this book in a far fairer picture than they should have. This is pre-teen mass market angst masquerading as historical fiction. There are far better books on this era with much more grit and substance.

Don’t waste your money folks.

Read: American Hardcover edition.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

or: !!!!!!!!!!!!

Goodreads   ||    The Book Depository

Summary: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

I loved this book. I didn’t think I would. But the story had me from the moment I opened the first page. I finished it in a matter of hours. But I did still have problems with this book, as much as I liked it.

Annoyingly, Bardugo tends to rely on cliche’s probably more than she should. She doesn’t need to, she’s a brilliant writer with a lot to offer and a lot of skill. Yet, like many writers in the young adult scene, she’s caught by many cliches. Whether it’s to make her writing well loved by her audience or simply bowing to peer pressure, i’m not sure.

Perhaps the most annoying cliche she uses in this book, is the age old love-triangle trope. I’m so sick of love triangles. They stopped being entertaining after the age of 17. Unfortunately, a lot of Bardugo’s audience obviously still fall within that age bracket, or haven’t yet come to hate it, because she panders to them beyond belief. The story didn’t need a love triangle. It would have been much better if certain characters stayed a platonic relationship; the love of a friend is just as motivating as romantic love.

Other than my few issues, I really enjoyed this book. Loosely inspired by Russian Folklore, it was refreshing to have a different flavour than usual to a book that falls under the fantasy/Young Adult bracket. The story also follows the traditional Cinderella story line. I don’t mind this if it’s used well- it is by Bardugo- and a lot of current Young Adults feel like they are falling back on this narrative style (Red Queen, the Selection, and countless more. You only need to read the blurbs of most Young Adult new releases or Popular books).

It’s an easy book to read and loose yourself in; I was so caught up in Ravka that the book flew by before my eyes. The world is rich and quite complex and one that feels like it could have existed- if magic and monsters did. As far as most books go, Ravka had an intriguing government system with interesting social dynamics.

Alina, however, was a fairly bland character, but benefited from some excellent character building scenes. I’m very interested to see where Bardugo takes Alina and how she develops her in the rest of the series.

This book has a heck tonne of hype surrounding it, and rightly so. This book works hard to earn your attention in a flooded market. Most times, I have problems with hyped up books, but this one feels like that it is worth all the attention it has gotten over the last year or so. From what I’ve heard, the best book in this series is the spin off set in the same world; Six of Crows. I’m definitely keen to read that one.

It’s one of those books that is hard to talk about without spoiling key plot points and it’s probably the reason I’ve taken so long to review it.

Read: International Paperback

The Book Pastry Tag

I wasn’t tagged in this… but I’m going to do it anyway. I saw this tag on Bookwormaniac  originally, and it grabbed my attention. I’m a sucker for tags. And I’m going to open up this tag to you, dear reader. If you want to do this tag, I officially tag you. You go do you.

Croissant: Name a popular book or series that everyone (including you) loves.

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A relative late comer to this series, I, like most mere mortals, couldn’t help but fall in love with the genius that is Throne of Glass. I bloody love this series. With a kick ass heroine, a brilliant plot line with plot twists and shockers galore, you cant help but be totally sucked into Maas vivid world. If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you doing with your life?

Macaron: Name a book that was hard to get through but worth it at the end.

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This book is sublime. A monstrosity of a book, weighing in at 700+ pages, its easy to get put off by feeling like you’re moving at a glacial pace through this book after hours of reading. But the story itself is so worth it. Exceedingly complex and beautifully executed, Harkness delivers a gravity defying book (that has to be one of the worst puns I’ve ever made, please hang me). I was DESPERATE to know what happened and fell hard for Matthew De Clairmont. Oh lord *fans self*

Vol-au-vent: Name a book that you thought would be amazing but fell flat.

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As I mentioned in my review of this book, this book had so much potential, but for some reason, it fell flat. I’m still not entirely sure why, as it had everything I love in the pages. And yet… I’m also well aware the ardent fans of this book will execute me for this *runs and hides*

Pain au chocolat: Name a book that you thought would be one thing but turned out to be something else.

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This book surprised me. It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be, and lord, am I glad. This was one of the books I fell in love with in 2015, and for a good reason. There’s also a reason Maas has made this current tag twice. She’s certainly earned it. This book is best read when you have little clues as to whats going on, so I’ll stay silent on this one and let you discover it for yourself.

Profiterole: Name a book or series that doesn’t get enough attention.

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This is comic is bloody fantastic. It’s also a new addition to the marvel universe and largely overlooked because of it. Y’all need Kamala in your lives.

Croquembouche: Name a book or series that’s extremely complex.

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This book had my mind whirring. Not only did you have to focus on the different sorts of colours and their abilities, but you also were following what they were up to, movements of other characters behind the scenes, as well as self analysing and thinking about reflections/metaphors to current society. That was a really long sentence… sorry. I cant English good sometimes.

Napoleon: Name a movie or TV show based off a book that you liked better than the book itself.

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OK, OK wait, let me explain. Before you go rabid on me, let me just start off with saying that I adore the Sherlock Holmes Stories. A lot. Doyle was a tortured soul, but man does he write an engaging story. But I am a strong believer that Sherlock and the Mysteries he and Dr Watson solve, are much more complex and beautiful when seen and not read. BBC’s Sherlock is one of my favourite shows… I just adore it. AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL?! SOMEONE TALK TO ME ABOUT IT PLEASE! Moffat breathes a smoky life into our favourite detective and my god do Cumberbatch and Freeman do smashing jobs at their roles.

Empanada: Name a book that was bittersweet.

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SO MUCH PAIN. YET SO MUCH ANGSTY, BITTER SWEET GOODNESS. Anyone who is familiar with any of Mead’s work will know why I chose her baby. Honestly this series… THIS SERIES BRO.

Kolompeh: Name a book or series that takes place somewhere other than your home country.

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It’s harder to find books set in Australia, than it is to find a book NOT in Australia. I thus present the first book that came to my mind. The Mortal Instruments splits it’s time between Mundane New York and Alicante. Clare clearly loves both worlds, and paints a gorgeous picture for someone who never grew up in a bustling city.

 

Pate a Choux: Name one food from a book or series that you would like to try.

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I would love to have every single food from Harry  Potter. Even Puking Pasties. Seriously. Attending the welcoming feast in the great hall is literally a dream. SERIOUSLY WHERE IS MY HOGWARTS LETTER?!?!

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagwa

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The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagwa

or: WHERE THE HELL IS MY GARLIC AND STAKE??!

Goodreads  ||   The Book Depository

Synopsis: Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters. Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again.

It took me a while to get into this book, and it took a while for it to warm up, but once things got going, they certainly got interesting too. The final third of this book was excellent plot wise; gripping and plot twists galore.

There was a large problem for me however. I’ve read so many vampire books, it takes a lot these days to grab my attention. This book struggled to. This book sat on my shelf collecting dust for a good half a year or more before I convinced myself to pick it up and give it ago. I read it fitfully for the first half, struggling immensely with the character of Allison.

And here’s the point where I should probably be brutally honest; I don’t like Allison Sekemoto.

Quite plainly, I think she’s a Mary Sue. She barely improved, and her best moments were when she was helping the group at the end. This is extremely disappointing because there were other characters – very minor characters- who put Allison to shame. On the whole however, I didn’t agree with most of Kagawa’s characterization. I don’t know why, but something felt off but it did and it jarred me for the whole book.

The plot dragged in places, but had the right tempo in others. It was almost bizarre. If I wanted to- which I don’t- I recon I could easily pull out a stick and point to places she went back and re-wrote at a later date. Her skill improvement in these places was obvious.

On the whole it wasn’t a bad book. I think it’s just because I’ve read so many excellent books over the last year I’ve become slightly spoiled.

I also think my patience for the Vampire trope is waning. Once upon a time, Ashleigh loved vampire books. In fact, once upon a time, they were the only books Ashleigh read for a solid 2-3 years. Because of the sheer volume of the books I have read, I’ve become rather critical of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love a good vampire book, but they’ve got to be pretty impressive these days to make a dent in the market and in my mind.

Kagawa, while presenting an innovative story line, has unfortunately targeted the two areas in young adult fiction that have been totally bashed to death over recent years; Dystopian and Vampire. Like I said earlier, the story isn’t bad, it’s just a solid ok. I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends, but I wouldn’t forget about it either.

Will I read the other books in the series? No, probably not. I’ve got so many other series I’m halfway through or just starting that this one doesn’t really make my list for series to follow. But does this mean this is the last of Kagawa’s books I’ll read? No. I’ll certainly give her other works a try somewhere down the track.

My last words on this book will be this; it could have sucked more. (HA… Sorry that was a really bad pun)