It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Unless, of course, he's gay. Or has a girlfriend. Or is neck deep in twice weekly sychoanalysis and entirely unfit for public interaction.
How does the modern day heroine find her way in a dating world where the rules change faster than she can update her status on Facebook, and there's not a single Georgian ballroom, empire-line dress or pantalooned man in sight?
Intrepid former dater and award-winning journalist Amanda Hooton turns to the ageless wisdom of Jane Austen to solve the eternal dilemmas of romance: how to be as clever as Elizabeth Bennet, as dignified as Elinor Dashwood and as confident as Emma Woodhouse; how to avoid shagging Mr Wickham, marrying Mr Collins, or being dumped by Willoughby; and most importantly of all, how to find Mr Darcy, grapple him to your soul with hoops of steel, and become the part-owner of a country estate in Derbyshire.
If you've ever wondered why your love life doesn't more closely resemble a Jane Austen novel, this is the book for you. Charming, laugh-out-loud hilarious and entirely empathetic, Finding Mr Darcy is a witty, street smart and, above all, wise approach to modern dating, which proves that some things – especially the pursuit of love – really are timeless.
Amanda Hooton was born and brought up in Western Australia. At nineteen, she moved to Scotland to attend St Andrews university, where she lived at the same college as Prince William (some years, alas, before he arrived). Having studied the great career-oriented degree of Medieval History and English, she used her extensive knowledge of King Arthur and the knights of the round table to secure two weeks' work experience at The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh, and spent two years there before moving to the Daily Telegraph in London. She returned to Australia in 1999, and has been a staff journalist at Good Weekend Magazine, with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, ever since. She has won both a Walkley award for Australian journalism, and a British Press Award. She lives in Sydney with her partner Dom, who has never read a single Jane Austen novel. Finding Mr Darcy is her first book.
Finding Mr Darcy
Author: Amanda Hooton
Question: How did the idea for Finding Mr Darcy come about?
Amanda Hooton: I'm afraid to say I had nothing to do with the idea at all! My publisher, Ingrid Ohlsson, asked me if I'd be interested in doing it. As a reader, I've always loved Jane Austen, but apart from wishing that my love life (in fact my whole life, really) was a lot more like a Jane Austen novel, I'd never thought about her as a romantic guide. But it's surprising how much advice she gives, and how applicable her ideas are to a modern setting. How to meet men; ways to spot a bastard; what to do when you fall in love and it all goes horribly wrong: this stuff (alas) is eternal.
Question: Did you find yourself laughing hysterically when writing the book?
Amanda Hooton: Of course Jane Austen would regard it as terribly bad form to laugh at one's own jokes, but sources close to the minister suggest that it may perhaps have happened once or twice! I do laugh at the anecdotes, which are, of course, other people's jokes: I love Lucy's story about climbing the tree while stalking her ex; and Saska falling backwards into the harbour with her sexy personal trainer; and Lenny's friend asking the universe for a job that was well paid, and interesting, and allowed her to work only three days a week. (Dream on, Lenny's friend.) This book really bought home to me the fact that truth actually *is* stranger than fiction. In real life, even in the 18th century, you've got people like Caroline Lamb, clipping off her own pubic hair (I know!) and posting it to Byron: Jane Austen would rather have set her hair on fire than write such a thing. But that's one of the nice things about non-fiction, maybe: you get to go into all this crazy stuff that's actually true.
Question: What appeals to you most about the men in Jane Austen's novels?
Amanda Hooton: Where does one begin? I love their sex appeal and their calmness and their sense of competence; I love their starched cravats and long boots…and I love the way they love the heroines. You can't imagine Mr Darcy or Mr Knightley or Captain Wentworth – or any Jane Austen hero, really – ever treating their heroines as bimbos or idiots or helpless damsels in distress. Elizabeth Bennet, for instance, is every bit as strong a character as Mr Darcy; and in the end he really loves her for it. To be loved for who you are – which is what Austen's heroes do – is deeply fantastic. Also deeply unusual in 18th century literature.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from Finding Mr Darcy?
Amanda Hooton: Strangely enough, I think the most important idea in the book is not finding your own Mr Darcy soulmate: the most important idea is to live a happy life. And to do that, I think you've got to try take responsibility for your own happiness. I know it sounds terribly boring and like something your mother would say, but I think we've all got to try to find ways of appreciating and enjoying and improving our own lives, with or without the presence of a dark haired hero who looks fantastic in silk waistcoats, cooks like a dream, and always offers to do the washing up. (Of course, it is a truth universally acknowledged that dark haired heroes never offer to do the washing up – which just goes to show that life is never perfect.)
Question: Are you currently working on another book?
Amanda Hooton: I wish. I have slightly fallen back exhausted from this one, so we'll see how things go. I would certainly like to. Charlotte Bronte's advice for the home cook, perhaps.