I gave a talk about Jane Austen and her creative women at Marnoo last week for Library Lovers' Day. I've given talks in all sorts of places but never in Marnoo, which I was very excited about! Why you ask? Because I'm very happy to be Jane's ambassador and take her into the Wimmera county which looks a lot like this photo below right now. This is not quite remote Australia but it is definitely off the beaten track, as the saying goes!
As I was driving to Marnoo, it did occur to me that this was Jane Austen country. Ok, the countryside may not be the lush green hills of England this year, with gothic bridges and medieval castles. Further south from the Wimmeria, it was beautifully green last year and looked a lot more like this.
Yellow grass or green: this is country that Jane Austen would have understood. Marnoo is sheep and wheat country. She grew up in small country towns surrounded by sheep and crops. Jane also worked with "three or four families in a country village" as the basis for her novels, and many towns like Marnoo have tiny populations. In 1814 Jane provided this advice to her niece Anna about her writing:
"You are now collecting your people delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life. Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on, and I hope you will do a great deal more, and make full use of them while they are so very favourably arranged."
Jane would have made a brilliant story out of three or four families in Marnoo. She didn't need social media, 24 hour news or constent stimulus to create six masterpieces: Jane worked with what she had.