In February 2021, we enjoyed a real transatlantic treat! Historical novelist Finola Austin talked to us (from her home in New York) about Brontë’s Mistress. The novel tells the story of the scandalous affair between Branwell Brontë and Lydia Robinson, mistress of Thorp Green Hall, where Branwell was working as a tutor for Mrs Robinson’s son. At 43, she is the glamorous but lonely older woman – at 25, he is the intense and romantic younger man: what happens next has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations. Now at last, Lydia gets to tell her own story.
Finola Austin was brought up in Northern Ireland. She read Classics and English at Merton College, Oxford and stayed in Oxford to take her Masters in English Literature 1800-1914 at Corpus Christi College. She is a Gaskell fan and got the idea for her novel from reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë: when she read about Branwell’s experiences at Thorp Green, she thought “What a fantastic subject for a novel…”
Finola is introduced by Libby Tempest, Chair of the Gaskell Society.