Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Real Jane Austen - Paula Byrne at Leicester Literary Festival

I went to listen to Paula Byrne talk about her biography of Jane Austen last night – The Real JaneAusten – A Life in Small Things, as part of Leicester University’s brilliant but under-attended Literary Leicester Festival.  I can’t believe anything so good is for free!

I have to admit I’ve not yet read Paula’s book, although I’m going to put that right as soon as possible.  I guess I thought well, what else is there to say about Jane Austen, but Paula’s biography with the structure of using objects to take a new look at Jane’s life sounds fascinating.  Paula has taken things that were close to Jane,  such as a silhouette and an East Indian shawl, to take a new look at Jane and explode the myth that the author spent all her life in her Hampshire cottage, coyly hiding her work from others. 
Paula was so far away from the stereotype of an academic and was fast-talking, witty and warm and so lovely at the book signing afterwards.  She looked very glam too in LBD – apparently she was going to Leicester’s Champagne Bar afterwards – a good choice I have to say.
Most of the audience made middle-aged me feel positively young and I wonder why there weren’t more students there – particularly those reading English Lit at either Leicester University or De Montfort. 

I know, I know, it was Friday night and students have got far better things to do – but you could take a wine chaser  in with you and it was only was only 6.00 – 7.15 pm, which leaves plenty of time for partying afterwards, as Paula proved.

The Good: Paula was a very engaging speaker and made me want to read the book.
The not so good: Lady Antonia Fraser who was scheduled to be on after Paula had been taken ill and had to cancel.

Go again: Definitely – Leicester Literary Festival has some brilliant, engaging speakers and given it’s a FREE event should be so much better attended.


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