bestselling biographer
HarperCollins have commissioned Paula to write a biography of Dido Belle, daughter of an aristocratic naval captain and a captured West Indian slave, who was adopted by Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and was present in his home at Kenwood when two of his legal judgments became landmarks in the history of the abolition of the slave trade - Somerset's Case and the Zong Massacre. Beginning from the famous double portrait of Dido and her white cousin, the book opens out into a wide-ranging exploration of the lives of black women in the age of slavery and abolition. It will be released in spring 2014, to coincide with Belle, a major motion picture from Fox Searchlight that was previewed at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews.

Paula's new book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, is a Sunday Times Top Ten and Guardian Bookshop No.1 Bestseller  

“Paula Byrne's magnificent The Real Jane Austen explodes the old view of her subject. Her research is wide, deep and meticulous ... Her method is kaleidoscopic, offering a fascinating social and cultural history of the time served up in a series of learned yet wholly accessible essays, the formidable scholarship subsumed, never paraded ... surviving memorabilia are triumphantly deployed ... deeply touching ... a more vivid and memorable Jane Austen emerges than a relentlessly 'straight' old-fashioned narrative could deliver

Peter J. Conradi, Times Literary Supplement


sparklingly multi-faceted, catching the light in intriguing ways” ****

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday


vividly persuasive

New York Times - Editors' Choice


“brilliantly illuminating”

Simon Callow, The Guardian


“refreshing, ambitious and immensely detailed … It is good to meet the real Jane Austen at last”

Susan Elkin, Independent on Sunday


“astonishing stories abound ... illuminating Austen's personality, travels and worldview

Michael Dirda, Washington Post


a fine appraisal of the novelist's environment, truly Austenish in the way [it] burrows into a sequestered and often secretive private world”

Peter Conrad, The Observer

“for all those people who are still searching to know more about this remarkable woman, Paula Byrne’s book will provide a truly satisfying and enjoyable read” **** Aline Reed, Sunday Express




Her previous biography, Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, entered the Top Ten of the Sunday Times bestseller list in the week that it was published. To read more about "this delicious biography" (Washington Post), click on WAUGH.

Paula is also the author of the Top Ten bestseller Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson.

"Byrne’s gift as a writer is her ability to combine scholarship with turbo-driven narrative power. Mad World is vibrant, absorbing, stranger than fiction." Sunday Times

"Among the finest biographies I have ever read … Ms Byrne, the consummate researcher, offering much material that's new, but with all the flair of a popular star-novelist, has done an incredible job." The Huffington Post