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August 2004

“Pride and Prejudice” is filming over this summer, in various glorious locations (a nice change from my last production, “Final Demand”, which was set in a telephone call centre outside Swindon). Pemberley will be Chatsworth, no less, and the Bennet family home has been recreated at Groombridge in Kent (last seen in “The Draughtsman’s Contract”). I went for a visit and it’s quite magical. The design team has created a farmyard around it, complete with rare hens and cattle and piles of manure. Inside the house is all dark panelling and sconces and faded bedcovers. It’s appealingly earthy, and a delicious contrast to the prissy Regency look one associates with Austen. When Elizabeth Bennet goes into society – Rosings, Netherfield – she’ll no doubt. find a more formal atmosphere and conventional furnishings but her own home is wonderfully tatty and old-fashioned, the house of a family on their uppers, but also one filled with high spirits and laughter.


It’s a strange feeling, knowing that something you’ve written is being filmed. It’s a sort of dream life existing along with your own. Back in London (with my own hens in the back garden) I wonder what the actors are doing now. When it rains I worry about them. The writer is the only person whose job is finished, really, though occasionally I might be asked to do something – write the props, for instance. I’ve just written the letter Darcy is writing at Netherfield, when Miss Bingley and Elizabeth are in the room and Miss Bingley looks over his shoulder and asks him to send her love to Georgiana, and tell her what raptures she’s in, about her designs for a table. I adore doing this – getting into Darcy’s head, imagining him trying to concentrate with Elizabeth so close, pretending he isn’t affected by her. And all the time Miss Bingley is flirting frantically, and fruitlessly, with him.


No more news about “Tulip Fever”. I’ll have a chance to revisit the paintings that inspired it later on this autumn when I’m giving a lecture to the National Art Collections Fund. It’s in a series called Fantasy Collecting where one does a sort of Desert Island Discs of works of art that one would most like to own (November 8th).


I’m also appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 18th August, at the Beverley Literary Festival in October, at Cheltenham on 16th `October and at Ways with Words at Southwold in November. I’ve finished the script about the lion children in Botswana and am trying to write yet another draft of the movie of my novel “The Stand-In”, which has to be updated to the present (I wrote the novel seventeen years ago and Hollywood has changed a lot since then).

Have a great summer and do email me if you fancy.