This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch


I absolutely adored Tabitha Carvan's This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch (in fact there is a lengthy appendix which is about Benedict Cumberbatch, and he is sprinkled generously throughout). I think I must have heard Carvan discussing her book on the radio and I immediately reserved it at the library. This book is tremendous fun; I laughed aloud, was moved and related to it deeply.

Carvan's journey begins when she, as a young mother, develops a massive crush on Benedict Cumberbatch's character in Sherlock (been there), which then morphs into an obsession with Cumberbatch himself (I went a short way down that path, but nowhere near as far as Carvan). What's interesting is the feelings of guilt, secrecy and shame that accompanied this new and absorbing interest. 

The book sensitively and thoughtfully (and very entertainingly) follows Carvan's evolution toward embracing this source of pure pleasure as legitimate and joyous, rather than something to be embarrassed about. She talks about being a young music fan, and how she felt that she wasn't loving music the 'right' way ie like a man, and how women's interests in general are dismissed as frivolous and inherently unworthy, and also about how hard it is as a wife/mother/carer/woman to unapologetically carve out time and space for one's own pleasure. I loved the part when Carvan looks across at a (male) work colleague's desk, festooned with emblems of his football club, and then at her own, adorned with Cumberbatch mugs and calendars, and thinks, well, what's the difference?

This book led me to ponder the celebrity crushes I had as an adolescent and young woman, and the revival of those feelings when I became a mother of young children. I plunged into a fierce crush on David Tennant when he became the Tenth Doctor. This was not the first time Dr Who and a celebrity crush had collided in my life; I was also in love with the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, for many years. Carvan reflects on the difficulty of finding a space for mental and emotional privacy and pleasure when your daily existence revolves around the needs of others; when David Tennant/Benedict Cumberbatch takes up residence inside your head, he is always there for you. And there is absolutely nothing with that!

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