Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden: A Novel with Pictures
Author: Janet Todd (Newnham 1961)
Publisher: Fentum Press
Eccentric Fran wants a second chance. Thanks to her intimacy with Jane Austen, and 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. An encounter with a long-standing friend, and a new one, a writer, lead to something new. The three women unite in their love of books and in a quest for the idealist poet Shelley at two pivotal moments: in Wales and Venice. His yearning for utopian communities and visionary power lead them to interrogate their past relationships, literature, motherhood, death, feminism, the resurgence of childhood memory in old age, the tensions between generations. Despite the appeal of solitude, they open themselves to different ways of living outside partnership and family. Jane Austen has plenty of comments to offer. This "coming of old age" novel is a (light) meditation on age, literature, friendship, hope, and the joy of new opportunities.
“A beautiful book - a true treat and gift. Todd gives us an allusive dialogue of the living in vivid conversation with the illustrious dead. The voices of her learned, witty, aging twenty-first-century characters—like present-day Mrs. Dalloways going about their business in provocative daily routines—bring new life to past great authors. This is a wonderful, moving novel of playful experimentation, gorgeous image, and brilliantly irreverent juxtaposition.” -- Devoney Looser, Foundation Professor of English, Arizona State, and author of The Making of Jane Austen.
"As summer wanes, here’s one more title for your reading list, especially if you prefer your novels literary but light: “Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden.” In this delightful — and very British — novel, Virginia Woolf, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Bishop, Dr. Samuel Johnson and Lord Byron all make cameos, along with, of course, Jane Austen." -- Washington Post, 10 September 2021