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Bibliophile | Tabatha Carvan has not written a book about Benedict Cumberbatch

This is not a book about Benedict Cumberbatch
by Tabatha Carvan
Fourth Estate

The Sherlock Homes series starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch was one of the most watched television shows in the world when it was made. Tabatha Carvan was living and working in Vietnam at the time and the only way she could watch the BBC Sherlock series was by buying pirated DVDs from a dusty little shop.

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Carvan became fixated on the lead actor, watching the television series many times and then catching up with other films and recorded plays that featured Benedict Cumberbatch. The midlife obsession with an actor she has never met has caused her to reflect on her life, particularly how motherhood has changed her expectations and the world’s perceptions of her.

As she muses that the joke of motherhood is that you don’t get children and be yourself, she makes contact with many other women who are also obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch. These “Cumberbitches” are middle-aged and older and they are from all works of life. One woman describes her fixation as “an affair of the mind” that she keeps from her husband.

But – this is not a book about Benedict Cumberbatch, though the celebrity worship does manage to make itself onto almost every page. In the first part of the book, it’s about losing a sense of self; about fear; about labels; about guilt and about hiding. It’s about searching childhood and adolescent passions and wondering where they went before the narrative surges into escapes through fanfiction.

Of course, all Carvan’s trolling for information is really a personal journey to work out what is really important, and have lots of fun laughing at the foibles along the way. Carvan relishes that she is a “full-grown fangirl” who subverts the age-appropriateness of how women are supposed to be. She says it isn’t about a celebrity or a television show, “it’s about how you see yourself in the world”.

Lezly Herbert


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