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Belle

by Paula Byrne

The sensational tale of the first mixed-race girl introduced to high-society England and raised as a lady...The illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an enslaved African woman, Dido Belle was raised by her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield, one of the most powerful men of the time and a leading opponent of slavery. When the portrait he commissioned of his two wards, Dido and her white cousin, Elizabeth, was unveiled, eighteenth-century England was shocked to see a black woman and white woman depicted as equals. Inspired by the painting, Belle vividly brings to life this extraordinary woman caught between two worlds, and illuminates the great civil rights question of her age: the fight to end slavery.The feature film Belle is produced by Damian Jones (The Iron Lady, The History Boys, Welcome to Sarajevo), written by Misan Sagay, and directed by Amma Asante, and stars the extraordinary Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Belle, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode, and Emily Watson.

Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth

by Paula Byrne

Filled with a wealth of revealing new material and insight, the biography of the vivacious, unconventional--and nearly forgotten--young Kennedy sister who charmed American society and the English aristocracy, and would break with her family for love.Encouraged to be "winners" from a young age, Rose and Joe Kennedy's children were the embodiment of ambitious, wholesome Americanism. Yet even within this ebullient group of overachievers, the fourth Kennedy child, the irrepressible Kathleen, stood out. Lively, charismatic, extremely clever, and blessed with graceful athleticism and a sunny disposition, the alluring socialite fondly known as Kick was a firecracker who effortlessly made friends and stole hearts.Moving across the Atlantic when her father was appointed as the ambassador to Great Britain in 1938, Kick--the "nicest Kennedy"--quickly became the family's star. Despite making little effort to fit into British high society, she charmed everyone from the beau monde to Fleet Street with her unconventional attitude and easygoing humor. Growing increasingly independent, Kick would also shock and alienate her devout family by falling in love and marrying the scion of a virulently anti-Catholic family-- William Cavendish, the heir apparent of the Duke of Devonshire and Chatsworth. But the marriage would last only a few months; Billy was killed in combat in 1944, just four years before Kick's own unexpected death in an airplane crash at twenty-eight.Paula Byrne recounts this remarkable young woman's life in detail as never before, from her work at the Washington Times-Herald and volunteerism for the Red Cross in wartime England; to her love of politics and astute, opinionated observations; to her decision to renounce her faith for the man she loved. Sympathetic and compelling, Kick shines a spotlight on this feisty and unique Kennedy long relegated to the shadows of her legendary family's history.

Perdita

by Paula Byrne

Sex, fame and scandal in the theatrical, literary and social circles of late-eighteenth-century England. One of the most flamboyant women of the late-eighteenth century, Mary Robinson's life was marked by reversals of fortune. After being raised by a middle-class father, Mary was married, at age fourteen, to Thomas Robinson. His dissipated lifestyle landed the couple and their baby in debtors' prison, where Mary wrote her first book of poetry and met lifelong friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. On her release, Mary quickly became one of the most popular actresses of the day, famously playing Perdita in The Winter's Tale for a rapt audience that included the Prince of Wales, who fell madly in love with her. She later used his copious love letters for blackmail. This authoritative and engaging book presents a fascinating portrait of a woman who was variously darling of the London stage, a poet whose work was admired by Coleridge and a mistress to the most powerful men in England, and yet whose fortunes were nevertheless precarious, always on the brink of being squandered through recklessness, excess and passion.

The Real Jane Austen

by Paula Byrne

Who was the real Jane Austen? Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, bestseller Paula Byrne's landmark biography reveals the real woman behind the books. Few authors inspire the same devotion as Jane Austen. Her six novels are perennial favourites, forever topping polls and appearing on screen. However, we know remarkably little about her. The Jane of popular imagination echoes the Victorian representation of her as sweet and maidenly, her books entirely suitable for polite society. In this astonishing biography Paula Bryce, the renowned Austen scholar, thwarts all attempts to tame Jane's reputation into one of dreary respectability and we meet the more likely personality behind such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Through her life and work, Jane emerges as deeply immersed in culture and politics, far ahead of her time in both her writerly ambition and desire for independence. With new revelations, including Byrne's discovery of a previously unknown contemporary portrait and the identity of Jane's long-lost seaside love, this is a depiction of Austen that finally makes sense - an intelligent, subversive and thoroughly modern woman.

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