Guest Post and Giveaway 3: Gaby Malcolm

GabyWe’re delighted this week to welcome author, editor and playwright, Dr Gabrielle Malcolm, to Tabby Cow!

Gaby throws an alternative perspective on the question we’ve been asking about how not having Jane Austen in your life might affect it, and asks: would it really be so terrible?

Read on to hear what she has to say on the subject, and do please comment with your thoughts! Over to you, Gaby!


If I allow my mind to wander over the possibility of an alternative universe – of a world without the novels of Jane Austen – there are a few things that occur but, perhaps unexpectedly, one of the first questions is: would it be such a bad thing?

41ynQhJNk8L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_When I was growing up there were bookshelves everywhere in my home. They lined the walls in almost every room of the house. We built bookshelves out of books to accommodate more books. Boredom was never an option. Austen was a member of the universe of authors that lived there with my family. My mother talked about literature all the time. Austen and Shakespeare and Dickens sat at the dinner table with us on a regular basis.

I think that I like Jane Austen so much because she likes me. Her writing tells me that. She is in the room with me describing the conversations that her characters have and letting me in on all their secrets. Austen and I have a conspiratorial and gossipy friendship and we share the same sense of humour. Or, perhaps, she shaped my sense of humour? But she is so discrete at doing it that she lets me take credit for it – that’s a true friend.

book-cover-persuasion-magnum1I only read dog-eared and well-thumbed copies of her novels. The cover of Persuasion was falling off. Pride and Prejudice had been dropped in the bath more than once. I had a lurid yellow and white Mansfield Park paperback with a cover illustration that bore no relation to the story inside (Why do publishers do that? Have they not read the book?). That copy saw me through my A Levels – just. It had my sisters’ scribbled notes in the margin. Vandals.

I found Fanny really irritating, and Mrs. Norris hilarious. Lady Bertram was bonkers, and Edmund was really dull and indecisive. I wouldn’t have, and still wouldn’t, kick Henry Crawford out of bed for eating biscuits. And I maintain that Tom is the coolest character and I definitely would pick him over his brother!

But what if I had never met Austen, and what if her books did not exist? Would it really be so terrible? Perhaps those who pine for the perfect man would not be so afflicted, or fussy? There is something to be said for not subscribing to the romantic fallacy. However, without Austen there would be others. Nature abhors a vacuum and readers must be satisfied. That yearning for the funny, skilful, happy, and satisfying narrative must always be met. If you can’t find the right book to do it, you might end up writing the book that will.

Austen refined the plot but it existed before her. She managed the characters expertly, and others have continued in her footsteps. Dramatic, romantic, and satiric heroes and heroines abound. Darcy has many relatives and descendents.

coverimageThanks to this I have embarked on my next writing project. This will be an exploration of all that is gorgeous, daring, threatening, sinister, and sexy about Darcy and his descendents. Heathcliff, Henry Irving, Dracula, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Batman – and many more – all in one book, and that’s before we even get to the wet shirt.

Join me in 2017 for Darcymania!


Dr Gabrielle Malcolm is an author, editor, and playwright. She has written a number of articles, books, and papers on Austen, Shakespeare, and Victorian Literature. She writes for children’s theatre company Moon On A Stick and her next book, Darcymania, is in the works.

Contact Keane Kataria Literary Agency for more information: Keane Kataria Literary Agency


The Giveaway!

Once again, we’re offering one lucky reader of this Blog the chance to win the following:

  • A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)*
  • A laminated bookmark showing the topaz crosses given to Jane and her sister, Cassandra, by their brother, Charles
  • A map of Bath in the time of Jane Austen (specifically, from 1803, a significant date in the story)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A charming necklace with a quote from one of Jane Austen’s Bath novels

There will be further chances to win the same bundle of prizes each week throughout our series of guest posts.

* Books will be sent out once the release date is reached (7th July)

How to Enter

Just leave a comment below about anything in Gaby’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week.

38 thoughts on “Guest Post and Giveaway 3: Gaby Malcolm

  1. If Jane Austen had never published her novels I would never have had the infuence of Elizabeth Bennets empowering fiestiness 🙂
    Ps love your books Cassandra

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a legacy worth having, Vee!

      (Thank you for the comment re the books – hope you enjoy the new one as much, even if it is very different!) Good luck in the draw!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for providing us with a fantastic blog entry Gaby!!!

    What I find funny is that I was late to Jane Austen, but now, when I look back on my childhood cannon – rich with funny, competent, but not all-powerful female heroines, I realize she was there all along. The authors and characters who shaped me so completely were themselves shaped by her. I know this now by all the references I didn’t understand then!

    Um – p.s. I’m fascinated by the book shelf constructed of books. Pictures???

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, thank you, Gaby!

      I loved the way you described Jane as your friend, because that’s how I feel, and I feel that even more now Ada and I have just spent a year in her company!

      It’s funny you mention, had people not ‘met’ Austen, the desire for the perfect relationship, because one or two other people mentioned this downside in comments on earlier blog posts! It’s not something I’d ever thought about before!

      And yes, I’d love to see a book shelf made of books! It sounds awesome!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I love the conversations in any Jane Austen novel. They are an insight into the regency world and skilfully betray the characters feelings. But I adore the arguments!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, Carol! There’s something about being an observer, for me, which makes the arguments fun. I shy away from confrontation in real life, so I wonder if that’s why I enjoy reading Jane Austen’s characters go at it so much!

      Thank you for commenting and good luck in the draw!


  4. Hmm the covers sometimes puzzle me too as some of them have nothing to do with the story inside. What’s worse, many people are simply put off because of an ugly cover and thus may miss a good story! As for Jane Austen’s novels, most of them are either film/series-related or have some lovely reproductions of period paintings, the rest look like cheap romances that you wouldn’t even touch. But anyway, I’m glad they are 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It would be fun for everyone to share the worst example they have of an Austen novel cover, the one bearing the least relevance to the story! There have been so many editions over the years, and many of them are lovely, as you mention, with reproduction paintings on them or beautiful original artwork.

      I think the proud ‘peacock edition’ cover is still one of my favourites for Pride & Prejudice!

      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment, Gosia, and good luck in the draw!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I have a VERY hard time not judging a book by it’s cover. And as for my favorites, I really can only read from the cover I started with. Thank you for stopping in Gosia!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jane Austen novels have a calming affect to a reader. Her books were prescribed in World War 1 trenches and for soldiers with mental troubles from the war. I haven’t been a soldier, but her work and variation novels are my go-to for calming me down after a stressful event. I can’t imagine the world without her and her novels. It’s interesting that this unmarried woman knew who the ideal man could be. She does set the standards high for men; Darcy is a tough act to beat, but hopefully people will look for Mr. Right, not Mr. Darcy. I think both men and women could go to Austen heroes and heroines (and some side characters like Jane from P&P or Elinor from NA) as role models in general. To me, they are old friends that I keep coming back to. That’s how amazing Jane Austen was about describing her characters. They have life long after hers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so pleased you gain comfort and calmness from settling down with one Jane Austen’s novels, or indeed one of the many variations, Lex.

      You are quite right, it’s fascinating how she seemed to be able to write such lovely heroes when her own experience of men and relationships seems pretty limited. If she was using her imagination, then it stood her in good stead!

      People keep coming back to idea of friendship through the novels, which I love. Not only do we often consider Jane herself our friend, but her characters too, and you’re right, it’s not just about the heroes. Her heroines are pretty awesome too!

      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment! Good luck in the draw!


    2. I didn’t know that about the prescriptions! I know that I used to have the 1995 version on in the background for days and days just because. And my daughter does the same thing now. Thank you for commenting Lex!


  6. Your thoughts are very interesting, and, although having grown up with a bookish family, I wish there would have been talked as much about literature as in yours! But I do have to disagree with you about Fanny Price, although I also hate Edmund’s indecisiveness etc., but I think Fanny provides the possibility for more introvert readers to identify with an Austen character who is not as tough and self-secure as Elizabeth or Emma for example (yet I know there are also Elinor and Anne … :))

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We didn’t have talk of literature around the dining table, though I wish we had!

      I think Fanny Price often divides opinion, Kathrin. Mansfield Park is considered by some critics to be her finest work, but it’s the one book I just haven’t been able to keep going back to. I have never quite worked out if that’s the lead characters or something to do with the plot.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Prof John Mullan talk about the novel and its characters, but he’s very enlightening (and fun in the process!) He is a staunch defender of Fanny, and he says that those who don’t like her are misjudging her!

      Thank you for commenting, Kathrin, and good luck in the draw!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Cass, I just read the theory that, as Fanny Price is a character who doesn’t develop that much, she might be considered less interesting than the other heroines. Funnily, I’m currently reading Prof Mullan’s book “What matters in Jane Austen?”, but haven’t come to parts yet that extensively analyse MP, but I’m looking forward to it! Thanks for mentioning it 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I agree with you now! My teenage self found Fanny irritating. Now, she is the calm oasis in a troubled world! And that’s where Austen gets it right also – you can grow with the characters!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is one of the things that never ceases to impress me with Jane Austen’s writing, how you can take something different from her stories each time you read, and as time passes, your feelings about characters evolve too.

        It really winds me up when people dismiss her books as having no depth or, even worse, right them off as nothing but ‘romance’!!! (Not that there’s anything wrong with romance at all, but seriously!!!)


  7. Dear Dr. Gabby 🙂

    Would it be so very bad? I think we don’t miss what we don’t have but having had her for so long it is hard to picture it. You have already published Jane Austen Fan Phenomena. Have you thought who would you talk about instead? Now you are working on Darcymania which is totally apropos but if Jane never was who would you be writting about, Romeo? You state she is a friend. She is our soul mate. We would all have a hard time. including you…hahaha…You don’t fool me! You are crazy about her! There is no denying.

    Can’t wait for your next book,


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Rita! Of course – she is the best! She is the ‘prose Shakespeare’ and I have lived with her too long now to imagine a world without her, really! I love writing about Shakespeare – I have recently worked on a version of The Tempest for children. I think I gain the most satisfaction working on children’s theatre tbh. I am also going to be working on an adaptation … but I can’t say anything more than that at the moment. It is Austen-related, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooo then we should put to you another question – who would have filled Shakespeare’s vacuum if he had not existed (if indeed you believe “he” is one man and not a conglomerate of writers)?!!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Gabby, I would love to read the version of The Tempest for children (or any Shakespeare work for that matter). Is there anyway I get my hands on it? BTW, I also had a bookshelf made of books. I love it!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. What a charming blog post this week! Gaby, I loved the description of your childhood growing up with books everywhere. Sounds heavenly. I completely agree with your assessment of the Mansfield Park characters, as well! Haha! Very much looking forward to Darcymania next year. It sounds like it will be hard to put down. 😉 Thanks, Cass and Ada, for the awesome giveaway!!! Cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Tara! Lovely to hear from you. As I mentioned in an earlier comment – my teenage self found Fanny irritating – but now I get her a bit more! I am most impressed with how a reader can grow with the characters. I even understand Mrs Norris a bit better! (but not that much!)

      Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL, Monica! And for many others too, I’m sure! I’m looking forward to reading Gaby’s book.

      Thank you for coming back to comment again! Good luck in this week’s draw!


  9. Life without Jane Austen would be sad indeed. Her works have touched a chord within me that I can never grow tired of them. Now to have JAFF provide endless hours of enjoyment only adds to my pleasure and many others as well. Thank you! Yea…Darcymania!


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