Jane Austen and the Gothic novel

It’s generally agreed that the first Gothic Novel was Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto of 1764. The first edition of the book claimed it was a translation of a 16th century document found in Naples, and only recently rediscovered in a house belonging to “an ancient Catholic family in the north of England”. Walpole did later admittedContinue reading “Jane Austen and the Gothic novel”

Jane Austen and the ‘father of the novel’

Jane Austen’s biographers often have to resort to guesswork and speculation about many aspects of her life, but there’s one thing we do know, and that’s who her favourite author was. According to her nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, her knowledge of Samuel Richardson “was such as no one is likely again to acquire . . . EveryContinue reading “Jane Austen and the ‘father of the novel’”

The Devil is in the Detail, or How Not to Write a Regency Novel

If you decide to write a novel set in the Regency you have one real labour of love before you, and that’s to negotiate a veritable minefield of complex etiquette. There were so many rules governing social interaction – particularly between men and women – that it’s very easy to get the details wrong, andContinue reading “The Devil is in the Detail, or How Not to Write a Regency Novel”

Austen, Dickens and me: The art of literary ventriloquism

I’ve never much liked the word ‘pastiche’ . It always sounds rather condescending to me – as if the meticulous re-evocation of another’s style is some rather inferior form of passing-off.  Personally, I prefer ‘literary ventriloquism’.  The art of catching a recognisable and distinctive voice, just as Dickens describes young Sloppy doing in Our Mutual Friend,Continue reading “Austen, Dickens and me: The art of literary ventriloquism”

Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie

How Mansfield Park got a murderous makeoverAn isolated country house, a family that conceals its passions and rivalries under a veneer of upper-class civility, a charismatic outsider whose arrival brings these tensions into the open, and sparks a train of ultimately disastrous events.  An archetypal Agatha Christie? Surely not Jane Austen? But in fact this is exactly the mise-en-scène at theContinue reading “Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie”

How do you solve a problem like Fanny Price?

“Nobody, I believe, has ever found it possible to like the heroine of Mansfield Park” I doubt there’s another Austen heroine – even another Austen character – who’s inspired more discussion, disagreement and debate down the years than Fanny Price. There was a recent online debate on this very subject entitled ‘Fanny Price, love her orContinue reading “How do you solve a problem like Fanny Price?”

How do you go about ‘ghosting’ Jane Austen?

Let’s start with the language I was writing Murder at Mansfield Park when The Duchess came out on film, and I heard it being reviewed on BBC Radio 4. The critic said she loved the authentic settings and costumes, but felt it was let down by the script – especially the reference to Georgiana offering to ‘make a deal’Continue reading “How do you go about ‘ghosting’ Jane Austen?”