Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March – A Review

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March (2013)From the desk of Christina Boyd:

What Janeite would not stop dead in her tracks when she spies “Colin Firth” in the title of a book? Mia March’s latest offering Finding Colin Firth: A Novel certainly set off all my bells and whistles. The smolderingly sexy British actor not only won our hearts when he emerged dripping wet from Pemberley pond as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, he has had an acclaimed career, winning the best actor Academy Award in 2011 for The King’s Speech. Who wouldn’t want to find Colin Firth? But no, dear friends, this is not a “How to” book sharing tips and advice on how to track and successfully have a Firth encounter. Eeesh! It’s a work of fiction about three women unknowingly bound together and whose lives intersect when the actor is slated to film a movie in a coastal Maine town. Daily rumors of Mr. Firth’s arrival fuels fantasy and stirs the excitement in their lives and aspirations. (Just imagining spotting Mr. Firth in my little town sets this fan-girl’s heart racing!)

A year after her mother’s death, (who incidentally was a Colin Firth fan), 22 year-old Bea Crane receives a mysterious letter from her deceased mother, confessing she adopted Bea as a newborn. “…Now that I feel myself going, I can’t bear to take this with me. But I can’t bear to tell you with my final breaths, either, I can’t do that to you. So I’ll wait on this, for both of us. But you should know the truth because it is the truth.” Shocked, Bea tracks down her birth mother to Boothbay Harbor, Maine and decides she must see this unknown woman for herself.

In Boothbay, Bea learns that 38-year-old Veronica Russo is an unmarried waitress-slash-magic pie baker-slash-Colin Firth fan who has only in the last year returned to her hometown. After years of failed relationships, her friends worry she will end up alone.  “…she’d started saying what felt light-hearted but true at the same time, that she was holding out for a man who felt like Colin Firth to her. Her friend Shelley from the diner had known exactly what she meant. ‘I realize he’s an actor playing roles, but I get it,’ Shelley had said. ‘Honest. Full of integrity. Conviction. Brimming with intelligence.  Loyal. You just want to believe everything he says with that British accent of his –and can trust it.’” Having failed to escape haunting memories of her youth, Veronica has come home to confront her past then “maybe her heart would start working the way it was supposed to. And maybe, maybe, maybe, the daughter she’d given up for adoption would contact her.” Now back to those magic pies by Veronica… She calls them elixir pies claiming to cast hope, love or banishment– or anything that conjures up a solution to one’s troubles. “For a heartbroken friend, Healing Pie. For a sick friend, Feel Better Pie. For a down-in –the dumps friend, Happiness Pie. For the lovelorn, Amore Pie.” And they seem to work! On everyone except Veronica. At least so far.

After seeing her birth mother at the diner, but not brave enough yet to approach her, Bea decides to take a tour of Hope Home, a home for unwed pregnant girls where she was born. There she meets a Manhattan journalist, Gemma Hendricks. Upon first coming to town, the recently fired Gemma thought she could curry favor with her old magazine by scooping a coveted human-interest story on Colin Firth. Instead she is offered a free-lance gig at the local newspaper to write a story on the 50th anniversary of Hope Home.  At a crossroads herself, Gemma has only just discovered she is pregnant but has yet to share the news with her devoted attorney husband. She loves living and working in the city but already knows her husband wants to move to the suburbs and start a family.  “How would she ever get back what she had at ‘New York Weekly’? Alexander would realize this in a hot minute and argue her into that Dobbs Ferry house before she new it.  He’d make his own case until she had no arguments of her own. And once she had the baby? He’d bombard her with articles about working mothers and bad nannies and reckless day cares.”

Although this is an intricate concoction, cooking up a potentially emotionally heated story, it would be a failing indeed were I not to mention the elephant in the room. A glaring error, in fact. And I mean GLARING—Red-light GLARING error—in the beginning of the book. Veronica is baking a pie while supposedly watching the mini-series Pride and Prejudice. The Colin Firth, 1995, A&E five-hour version. March writes, “Fitzwilliam Darcy’s face filled the TV screen. ‘If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you; you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on…’” Although it’s not Austen’s prose, this Janeite loves that line and all it’s saccharine sweet sentiment. I know for a fact it’s what the Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy from the Joe Wright 2005 version of P&P says to Kiera Knightley’s Lizzy Bennet as they meet in a mist covered field at daybreak!  So, I went back and made sure I hadn’t missed something—something like, Veronica was watching the newer version. But no, she is supposed to be watching the Colin Firth version. Ugh! It is incredulous any author writing about the namesake of her book, or her editor, or the layers of people who read it before publication could let such an obvious blunder slip through unnoticed. From then on I had my doubts March was a fan of Colin Firth or P&P – and speculated maybe she wrote this bit of pastiche to take advantage of the current popularity and ready-made fan base of both. Prejudiced thereafter, I read any mention of Mr.Firth or his movies with a cynical eye, thinking this could be any popular actor and his movies dubbed in. Nevertheless, I soldiered on because honestly, I liked the premise—and was hopeful.

Did I enjoy the book? Hmmmmm… Yes, I did. It was an interesting story with strong plot lines. Although Finding Colin Firth: A Novel dealt with powerful issues regarding teenage pregnancy, adoption, marriage and relationship struggles with a happy ending for all, I must admit I never felt overly invested in any of the characters to really like them. There seemed no shortage of disjointed “telling” from the three main characters’ point of view but scant, soulful interaction. Given the themes, I thought there would have been more depth. Pity. In short, it’s a good book. Easy, breezy bit of chic-lit that I liked. Not loved.

Yes, there is a Colin Firth sighting, eventually, but then again, he’s not really the story. Just the bait.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March
Gallery Books (2013)
Trade paperback (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1476710204

Cover image courtesy of Simon & Schuster © 2013; text Christina Boyd © 2013, Austenprose.com

12 thoughts on “Finding Colin Firth: A Novel, by Mia March – A Review

  1. Thanks for the review. I started off thinking I would read this book but as I read further I found myself thinking that I’ve run into characters like these before. The waitress who is a magic pie maker sounds like a combination of the Keri Russel character in “Waitress” with shades of the pies in the “Pushing Daisies” TV show.
    A magazine writer who gets fired and then tries to redeem herself by…need I go on? And then to commit the ultimate error… I think I will reread Blackmoor and Edenbrook both of which my romantic heart devoured.

    Like

  2. Thanks for the review Christina – I always love your reviews as they are so well written and really let me know whether I will like a book or not. I think I will pass on this one!

    Like

  3. I just finished the author’s first book,The Meryl Streep Movie Club(not bad,it got me to watch Out of Africa for the first time!) and have this one on my rental list at Booksfree. Sounds like borrowing it is the way to go but light reading does have it’s pleasures,even if a line from one P&P to another is most misplaced indeed! I personally loved it when Firth’s Darcy says “In vain I have struggled…”

    Like

    • Yes, this book is a good one to rent– or borrow from the library. There’s nothing in it to damage anyone’s sensibilities permanently ;) ;) Brain candy. And everybody could benefit from a little brain candy these days — unless of course, your Reading List is as long as Emma Woodhouse’s.

      Like

  4. I appreciate this thoughtful and indepth review of my novel. I was HORRIFIED to discover I made the error of dialogue attributed to Colin’s Darcy when it was Macfadyen’s. The night before I wrote that scene, I watched the Knightley/Macfadyen version of P&P for the first time (and loved it, incidentally), though Colin’s version, which I’ve seen at least five times, has always been the gold standard for me. So when I Googled the second proposal scene to get the dialogue just right and the Macfadyen version came up, it sounded right to my ears because I’d just seen the film, and into the book it went. I still can’t believe it didn’t sound WRONG to my ears. Or that I didn’t catch it the ten or so times I read the manuscript since writing that scene. I can’t begin to tell you how awful I felt when I discovered the mistake–and that it was too late to fix it. I was able to change it for the UK edition (thank GOD).

    Thank you, again, for your kind words about the book; you were very fair, especially given such a terrible mistake!

    Mia March

    Like

  5. Dear Mia March,
    Thank you for being so gracious about my review and your error. I’m sure the general populace will not even bat an eye about it– but of course, this bevy of Austen & Firth fans can’t help but notice. Thankfully you were able to correct it in time for the UK publication! How horrifying for you to discover it too late here… gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it. I don’t wish that on anyone. Again thank you for caring enough to take time & explain. All the best!–Christina

    Like

  6. Glad to know the PP 1995/2005 goof was just an honest mistake and not a deliberate tease. Thank you, Mia March, for responding; and thank you for the review, Christina!

    Like

  7. I would have reacted EXACTLY as you did, when it read the quote! Janeites know the difference between the movies AND actors… I would have tossed in in the reciprocal after reading the MAJOR mistake. Thanks for saving me the $ & time!

    Like

  8. Pingback: Austenprose’s Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2013 | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

Please join in and have your share of the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s