I thought I'd write a post about the various rewards which involve a tour, since there's not a lot of room on the rewards page to go into detail.
All of the tours are hosted by me, your author-guide for this particular adventure, and will take place after the book has been published. This is good timing, since the tours are all based around the events, locations and objects in the novel itself, and reading it beforehand is likely to enhance the experience greatly.
Art Tour: An afternoon in London with the author, visiting the National Gallery and Tate Britain to view some of the paintings mentioned in the book; followed by drinks and discussion. (Travel not included.)
Anna, one of the novel's two protagonists, is an art curator, and constructs the world around her according to the paintings and painters she knows and loves: it's almost a form of visual synæsthesia. There's no need at all to know anything about art in order to enjoy the book, but it is definitely fun and interesting to stand in front of some of Anna's reveries, painted on canvas. Several of these paintings are in London, at the National Gallery and Tate Britain. The Art Tour will visit both, and I'll tell you a little of the history of the paintings and their context, explain how they came to be pulled into the world of the novel. I'll also read the relevant parts of the novel, but that might happen afterwards, over drinks, as people tend to like a bit of peace and quiet in gallery spaces.
Stowe Gardens Tour: A day at Stowe House touring the gardens, which served as the inspiration for the Barbroke estate of the novel; the author will read from the novel at various locations; followed by drinks and discussion. (Travel and house tour not included.)
One of the central locations of the novel is Barbroke, the country estate of an Oxford student called Diana. Its landscape and atmosphere were inspired by the grounds of Stowe, an estate in Buckinghamshire. The tour will range over the landscaped gardens, and include a bit of the history of the place, readings from the novel and extracts from the books which Penelope and Diana find there. We'll be a relatively small group, so there'll be plenty of time for general discussion.
I should mention a couple of reasons for focusing on the gardens rather the interior of the house. First, Stowe House itself is not always open to the public, and didn't provide the blueprint for the Barbroke House of the novel: but I will talk about the roots of Barbroke House on the tour. Second, the gardens are large, beautiful and filled with wonderful architectural features: we'd be doing them a great disservice if we rushed to cover them and the house in one visit.
Oxford Tour and Dinner: An afternoon in Oxford, visiting locations from the book, followed by dinner in the dining hall of one of the university’s oldest colleges.
Much of the novel takes place in Victorian Oxford, where two of the first women to study at the university—Penelope and Diana—meet an artist by the name of Matthew Taylor. One or two of the locations come from the imagination, but the rest are real and continue to exist into the twenty-first century. We will visit some of the parks, museums and colleges from the novel, with readings from the book and from the Victorian guide-books used by Penelope and Diana. There'll also be time for drinks in a couple of wonderful pubs. In the evening, we'll dine in college and I'll try to convey a little more of life as an Oxford student, both in the 1880s and 1980s.
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