The Lost Art of Letter Writing

letter boxWhen was the last time you received a handwritten letter? With developments in technology and social media, the fact that we can now communicate, instantly, with someone on the other side of the globe, it seems that letters will soon become no more than a distant memory, along with typewriters and telegrams. But I am convinced that we will be missing out on something significant, something valuable, something that provides us with a form of communication that is quite unique, but which also helps us to remember… Continue reading

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Poetry in Response to Art

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

I have always been attracted to the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and intrigued by the lives of the women who modelled for their paintings. Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is a collection which focuses on these women, particularly on Elizabeth Siddall, who was actually a poet and artist in her own right. Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet Off the wall also takes much of its inspiration from artwork, and contains some poems on similar themes to those explored in Kresan’s book.   Continue reading

Book Review: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

suite francaiseSuite Française, translated from the French, is made up of two uncompleted works (Storm in June and Dolce) by Irène Némirovsky, who died at Auschwitz in 1942, before she was able to finish her planned novel sequence. In fact, the story of her own life is printed in the back of the book, and is just as fascinating a read as the novels themselves.    Continue reading

What lies behind the mysterious black veil?

gothic novel - Catherine readingHave you ever read a novel by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens and wondered what kinds of books they were reading at the time? Well there is actually a considerable amount known about the reading habits of some of our most well-loved writers. One source of information is the works themselves, and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, is a fine example. The protagonist, Catherine Moorland, reads gothic novels, a popular genre at the turn of the nineteenth century. Catherine is particularly engrossed with The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe.    Continue reading

Film Review – Jane Austen’s Comedy

Scene from Love and Friendship film

Sir James Martin is Austen’s most foolish caricature

I must admit that although I love Jane Austen and have read all her novels, I hadn’t ever attempted her novella Lady Susan, partly because it is written almost entirely through letters. I’m highly grateful to Radio 4 that I even knew about this film (entitled Love and Friendship) based on the novella, as I haven’t seen any advertisements for it. I spent a long time looking up every cinema within reach of Cardiff and was relieved to discover that it would be shown at Chapter Arts Centre.    Continue reading

Three Great Authoresses: Brontë, Austen and Eliot

austen eliot bronteCharlotte Brontë, Jane Austen and George Eliot are three of Britain’s greatest women writers, but which one is your favourite? Which one do you think is the greatest? You can add your own vote to the poll at the end of this post.

I attended an event at the Stratford Literature Festival last weekend, with a panel of three biographers. Paula Byrne (The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things), Val Dodd (George Eliot: An Intellectual Life) and Claire Harman (Charlotte Brontë: A Life) each presented the case for their favourite authoress.    Continue reading

Book Review: The Past by Tessa Hadley

Book - The Past by Tessa HadleyI was fortunate enough to attend an event featuring Tessa Hadley, organised by Cardiff University as part of their visiting writers series. She read a short story, and I was impressed by her reading voice. It was strange really, that approximately 30 grown adults should sit silently listening to someone reading in an upstairs bar, in the middle of Cardiff City Centre. But it worked. Hadley has a reading voice that takes you straight into her characters’ world, and it’s also the way she writes – you don’t notice the writing because you’re so intent on the story.    Continue reading

Bath Literature Festival: Part 2 – Jane Austen

Jane Austen CentreAfter hearing Sebastian Faulks being interviewed about his work, I headed out into Bath to explore, excited to discover the famous sites as mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels. I headed North, up Milsom Street, where the Tilney family had lodgings in Northanger Abbey, and was pleased to discover that there is now a Waterstones there. I think Jane would have been pleased.    Continue reading