Paula Byrne

Posted by Sue Leonard on Monday 11th June 2018

From a large, Catholic family, Paula started her working life as a schoolteacher.

“I taught A Level English in an all boys grammar school, and then at a college of education.”

Turning to academia, she gained an MA with distinction, which won her the funding to do a PhD.

“I studied Jane Austen, and wrote an academic book, Jane Austen and the Theatre.”

By this time Paula was married to a fellow academic and writer, and was pregnant with their first child. The two of them had spent time in Warwick, and America, and were living in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Paua’s next book was a historical biography, Perdita, which became a Richard and Judy bookclub choice.


“After that all my books were bestsellers,” she says.

These included works on Evelyn Waugh, JFK’s forgotten sister, Kick Kennedy, the tie in book to the award winning movie, Belle, and two more books on Jane Austen. Now she’s turned to fiction.


Who is Paula Byrne.

Date of birth: 1967, Birkenhead in the North of England.

Education:  Marian High, in Birkenhead. Chichester for teacher training, then transferred to Liverpool for a BA. Later took an MA and PhD in English.

Home: Worcester College, Oxford. (Her husband is provost.)

Family: Husband, Sir Jonathan Bate. Tom 19, Ellie, 17, Harry 11.

The Day Job: Fulltime writer, wife and mother.  “And I run the charity Relit, the Bibliography Foundation, devoted to the mental health benefits of reading.”

In Another Life: “I’d be a ballerina or a fashion historian.”

Favourite Writers: Jane Austen; Evelyn Waugh; Barbara Pym; Molly Keane; PG Wodehouse.

Second Novel: “I’m writing a historical novel about Marlena Dietrich.”


Top Tip: “Read your work aloud. Then you will feel the rhythm and see your mistakes. It always works.”

Web: check   Twitter: @PaulaJaynebyrne

The Debut: Look to your wife. William Collins: €12.99  Kindle: €9.34 

Lisa meets Edward in Liverpool, where, as headmaster, he is turning round the fortunes of a disadvantaged school. She becomes his, second, wife, but when they move to an elite boarding school, she feels out of place. So she turns to Twitter; and that’s when the trouble starts.

“It’s based on my experience,” she says. “Lisa is, to some extent, me.”

The Verdict: A delicious comedy of manners.


Published in The Irish Examiner on 7th April.

© Sue Leonard. 2018.

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