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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Review: This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

Title: This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch
Author: Tabitha Carvan

Publisher: 2nd March 2022 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Pages: 280 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: nonfiction, self help, biography, feminism

My Rating:  4 crowns


If you feel that sense that there is something missing from your life, some gap between who you are on the inside and who you are on the outside - then this is the book for you.

This is, as the title says, not actually a book about Benedict Cumberbatch.

In fact, it's a book about women and what we love, about what happens to women's passions after we leave adolescence and how the space for joy in our lives is squeezed ever smaller as we age, and why. More importantly, it's about what happens if you subvert that narrative and simply love something like you used to.

Drawing upon her personal experience of unexpectedly falling for the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch while stuck at home with two young children, Carvan challenges the reader to stop instinctively resisting the possibility of experiencing pleasure. Hers is clarion rallying cry: find your thing, whatever it may be, and love it like your life depends on it.

Funny, intelligent, transporting and liberating, this book is a total joy.

My Thoughts

‘If … I told you it was okay, not everything needs to be about making meaning, that not everything has to be justifiable as a good use of your time or mind - then, could you let … your body find its way towards loving what it loves? And what would that look like for you? It’s not that easy.’

Okay … you got me. With an intriguing title like that who wouldn’t pick it up! Tabitha takes her obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch to investigate how the reality of life for women - family, job etc etc - can take away from who you once were and rob you of some of the joys to be found in this world. 

‘You should indulge in things which refresh your spirit or make you laugh or make you feel something.” She sighs. “People deserve indulgences. I wish they could do more. I tell them, ‘Go somewhere! Do something! Feel something! Anything!’

I am a little conflicted with this book. I was not sure whether to read it or not … undecided for the longest time. Eventually I took the plunge and ultimately was glad I did as I walked away affirmed and with many pearls of wisdom, joy bubbles and affirmations. Yet, I am here to say, this is most definitely a book about Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, whilst I like Benedict and find his work to be of the highest calibre, the constant mention (and I get it … he is symbolic as one example of what women of a certain age *cough … splutter* may embrace *figuratively speaking … although I am sure this author would like it otherwise*) it just became a bit too much at times.

‘I did not follow a route determined by the things I loved; the things I loved were determined by the route, my graduation from one life stage to the next. Which is why falling in love with Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t feel natural or unsurprising at all. It felt like a step backwards, in the very wrong direction.’

That has to be put to one side if you are to truly enjoy the many colours of this book -  part memoir, part pop culture, part passion pursuit, part art dissertation on feminism.What this most definitely is a book about, is women. Why is it we often lose that spark along life’s journey and how to stand proud and embrace whatever our passions may be at any age. Here! Here! I fully support the key message that this book offers and I am ever so happy someone stood up and proclaimed “it’s okay!”

‘… motherhood is. The “shattering” is what the writer Sarah Manguso calls it in her Harper’s essay about writing and mothering: the “disintegration of the self, after which the original form is quite gone.’

So, the main message, find your thing! Embrace it! Squeeze every last drop out of it for life is too short to do otherwise. This book affirms that it’s okay to get ‘obsessed’, ‘carried away’, ‘ridiculous at your age’ or worried about what others may think. Tabitha’s book encourages you to recognise and find your lost spark and then build it into a great big fire that will lead you to joy and fulfilment. 

‘I’m desperate for you to know that it’s worth it. Finding your thing, I mean. Feeling a spark of something, and instead of instinctively dousing it, fanning the flames.’

Women need more in their lives than the usual work and family. They need to play! If you feel that this may be something you have been unsure of or forgotten how to do, then this book is sure to both encourage and congratulate all manner of joyful pursuits at any age. Wise and witty - are you up for the challenge?

‘I need to recast myself in this story as someone who is doing what she wants, because she’s just as entitled to it as anyone else. And who should have started a lot sooner.’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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