Literary Pursuits

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
03Jane Austen: Persuasion20160529

Sarah Dillon discovers how Jane Austen's last completed novel, 'Persuasion' was written. The novel has sometimes been viewed as Austen's valedictory novel - written while she was suffering with her final illness. But Sarah Dillon uncovers a more complex story: dates of revisions on the manuscripts in the British Library confirm her sister's story that Persuasion was completed almost a year before Austen's death, but it was only published posthumously. By talking to Dr Kathryn Sutherland from St Anne's College, Oxford, Paula Byrne, author of 'The Real Jane Austen, A Life In Small Things' and writer Margaret Drabble, we go behind the scant details of Austen's life and uncover reasons for the delay: her last illness; the possibly personal inspirations for the plot of the novel; the state of her finances; her fascinating creative process; and the radical reaches and determination of her literary ambitions.

0102Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea2016011720170402 (R3)

Sarah Dillon is a literary detective, hunting down the story behind the story of the writing of great works. Jean Rhys was the author of four novels in the late 20s and 30s when she disappeared off the literary map and was presumed dead. She spectacularly re-appeared with the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea, telling the back story of the first Mrs Rochester from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Published in 1966 when the author was in her 70s, the novel became an instant classic.

Sarah Dillon goes on a journey to find out why there was a 27 year gap between novels: she travels to the British Library to look at Rhys' original notebooks; talks to Carole Angier, Jean's biographer; and goes to meet Jean's publisher Diana Athill.

The struggle to bring the book to completion touches on poverty, death and a passionate desire for perfection.

In a new series, Sarah Dillon is a literary detective, hunting down the story behind the story of the writing of great works. Jean Rhys was the author of four novels in the late 20s and 30s when she disappeared off the literary map and was presumed dead. She spectacularly re-appeared with the publication of Wide Sargasso Sea, telling the back story of the first Mrs Rochester from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Published in 1966 when the author was in her 70s, the novel became an instant classic.