Tuesday, 8 October 2013

P.D. James on Jane Austen ~ Trinity College Dublin

We took our seats in the sold out old, rotund, examinations hall in Trinity College this evening and the excitement was palpable. Eyes eagerly watched the small side door, where surely the guest of honour, now in her ninety-third year, would at some point emerge. In time, she did just that to a rousing standing ovation and much applause. Yes, P.D. James is read and admired in Ireland too.

For about an hour, she spoke about her novels and those of Jane Austen, declaring that the latter's books all have the same basic Cinderella plot-line, but were written by a genius. Her love for the eighteenth century novelist was clearly apparent, as she smiled broadly every time she pondered Lizzy or Jane. She surprised us all by suggesting that 'Emma' contained many elements of the crime novel, with hints and clues as to Jane Fairfax's secret admirer, amongst other things.

She was happy to answer audience questions, though one enthusiastic gentleman managed to speak for about five minutes without actually asking a question at all! Another man asked if she had decided to write about Pride and Prejudice, because she was so old now and out of touch with the world (!) She was quick to put pay to that line of questioning and said that she was very much still living in the real world, and announced that she was in the early stages of writing another book featuring her well-loved detective, Adam Dalgliesh, much to the delight of the loyal fans in the audience, who whooped and cheered excitedly.
And then it was announced that there would be a book signing, so people stood in line to get an autograph and have their photos taken with one of the most respected writers of our time.  When my turn came, and  I told her how much I had enjoyed her book, she said, ' I am so glad; I really enjoyed writing it'.  
And as I set off home, clutching my signed, hardback copy of 'Death Comes to Pemberley', I couldn't stop smiling as I thought of how alike Phyllis and Lizzy Bennet are, both witty and beguiling, with a lively mind and happy temper, and then how P.D. James and Jane Austen might just have been a little alike too, and I suddenly felt a little closer to both writers, and grateful that such clever women decided to give their lives to writing all those wonderful books for us to enjoy.  A happy thought indeed!