Friday, August 20, 2021



Eccentric Fran wants a second chance. Thanks to her intimacy with Jane Austen, and the poet Shelley, she finds one.

Jane Austen is such a presence in Fran's life that she seems to share her cottage and garden, becoming an imaginary friend.

Fran’s conversations with Jane Austen guide and chide her – but Fran is ready for change after years of teaching, reading and gardening. An encounter with a long-standing English friend, and an American writer, leads to new possibilities. Adrift, the three women bond through a love of books and a quest for the idealist poet Shelley at two pivotal moments of his life: in Wales and Venice. His otherworldly longing and yearning for utopian communities lead the women to interrogate their own past as well as motherhood, feminism, the resurgence of childhood memory in old age, the tensions and attractions between generations. Despite the appeal of solitude, the women open themselves social to ways of living—outside partnership and family. Jane Austen, as always, has plenty of comments to offer.

The novel is a (light) meditation on age, mortality, friendship, hope, and the excitement of change.

Book Details

Title: Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden: An Illustrated Novel

Author: Janet Todd

Genre: literary fiction

Publisher: Fentum Press
 (September 7, 2021
Print length: 336 pages


A few of your favorite things: warm croissants, cut flowers, china fruit.
Things you need to throw out: high heel shoes, red handbags.

Things you need in order to write: pen and envelope,  laptop.
Things that hamper your writing: not a lot. Can withstand need to clean house, garden.

Things you love about where you live: big trees, big sky, crumbling walls.
Things that make you want to move: the weather.

Things you never want to run out of: marmite—and books.
Things you wish you’d never bought: an exercise bike.

Favorite foods: dumplings, Dutch apple pie, fresh figs .
Things that make you want to throw up:   kippers for breakfast.
Favorite music: Purcell’s Fairest Isle—made me want to live in England. Memo to self: never trust a song.
Music that make your ears bleed: loud stuff coming from next car in a traffic jam.
Favorite smell: wallflower (it is an actual flower!).

Something that makes you hold your nose: sulphur, reminds me of dried egg.
Something you’re really good at: working.

Something you’re really bad at: stopping work.

Something you wish you could do: meditate.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: darn a sock. No call for it now—thank God.
Something you like to do: walk down a grassy lane alone—without an umbrella.

Something you wish you’d never done: don’t let me start . . .

Last best thing you ate: lamb hotpot, rhubarb crumble. Yum.

Last thing you regret eating: the Easter chocolates bought as presents but never given because of lockdown.
Things you’d walk a mile for: champagne and smoked oysters in a friend’s garden.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: meetings with  spreadsheets and ‘brainstorming.’
Things you always put in your books: food, rivers and woodland, poetry.

Things you never put in your books: I’m from the Jane Austen school of amorous encounter, so not a lot of explicit sex. But there again, do write funny sex—and even nasty sex . . .
Things to say to an author: compliments.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: Darling, how daring of you to . . .

Favorite places you’ve been: Aberdovey, Trincomalee, Pine Barrens (NJ), Venice.

Places you never want to go to again: Delhi, someone pinched my passport and I was stuck with no money—or identity.

Things that make you happy: good health.

Things that drive you crazy: being asked for feedback after buying some sticky tape or a bag of bulbs; getting duckweed out of pond, tax returns.


Janet Todd is a novelist, biographer and internationally renowned Jane Austen scholar. She is a former president of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. Now a full-time writer and literary critic, she has published several books: Jane Austen's Sanditon, Don’t You Know There’s a War On?, Radiation Diaries, Aphra Behn: A Secret Life, and A Man of Genius. She is an Emerita Professor at the University of Aberdeen and an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. Born in Wales, she grew up in Britain, Bermuda and Ceylon/Sri Lanka and has worked at universities in Ghana, Puerto Rico, India, the US (Douglass College, Rutgers, Florida) Scotland (Glasgow, Aberdeen) and England (Cambridge, UEA). She lives in Cambridge, England and Venice, Italy.

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