Celebrating Jane Austen at the Althorp Literary Festival

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. I was thrilled to attend the Althorp Literary Festival for a talk by Paula Byrne.

Paula’s book The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood challenges the academic critical consensus and seeks to uncover ‘the real Jane Austen.’ In her entertaining Q & A session at the festival, Paula explained how the author shaped the English novel by incorporating theatrical techniques.

It was fascinating to learn that Jane’s books were prescribed to shell shocked soldiers during the First World War as they were considered comfort reading. Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne was also known to read her books in the trenches.

Paula described Jane Austen as an anti-romantic comic author with eclectic tastes who loved a farce as much as a Shakespeare play. Ahead of her time, she would take a laptop writing desk on the road with her when she travelled.

It is fitting that Jane’s image is on the new British ten pound note as it turns out she received exactly that amount as an advance for her first book, Northanger Abbey!

This was my first visit to historic Althorp, the ancestral home of Diana, Princess of Wales, which dates back to 1508. The talk was presented in the State Dining Room and Diana’s brother Charles, Earl Spencer, was in the front row. Featuring candelabras and gold-trimmed velvet drapes, it was a splendid setting for a thoroughly entertaining, insightful and educational session.

This year also marks the twentieth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and her memory echoes throughout the house and grounds. The huge impact of Diana’s life is celebrated in a series of poignant exhibitions.

It was very moving to see the hundreds of Books of Condolence signed by people from all over the UK and the world as well as Earl Spencer’s powerful funeral speech. Walking In Her Shoes promotes the inspirational young people who have won the Diana Award for helping others.   Mario Testino’s iconic photographs are also on display.

The island burial place is in an incredibly peaceful spot on the estate’s grounds. It is a genuinely tranquil haven surrounded by ancient tall trees.

What a stunning backdrop to a truly exceptional literary festival!

This entry was posted in Blog, Books, Jane Austen, Literature, London, Northampton, Novel, Reading, Theatre, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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