JANE AUSTEN novels are to be read aloud every day for a week as part of a fund-raising effort to restore a First World War memorial chapel in time for celebrations to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
The chapel of St Mark’s, Farnborough, in Hampshire, houses more than 190 plaques commemorating men and women who died in the war. One of those plaques in memory of Austen’s great-great nephew, Richard Brodnax Knight, who died in action in France.
The idea for the Austen readathon came from Daryl Bates, a lover of the novelist’s work, who has worshipped at St Mark’s for 44 years.
The bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death falls this year, and has also brought the launch of a new £10 note, that features the author.
Mrs Bates said: “We are asking people to come along and donate a ‘Jenner’ — a Jane Austen tenner — to our appeal. We want to restore the plaques in our beautiful chapel which many years ago were stained in a dark woodstain so they are now impossible to read. We want people to see the tributes once again.”
About £10,000 is needed for the restoration work.
Mrs Bates has chosen to read Mansfield Park, halfway through the Readathon, which will feature Austen’s six completed novels.
“I know it isn’t everybody’s favourite or so well known as some of Austen’s other novels, but I love it. I’ve been trying to practise by reading chapters aloud at home, but I keep having to stop because I’m laughing so much.”
The Readathon will start with Northanger Abbey on Monday 11 December, and end with Pride and Prejudice on 16 December.
A crowdfunding appeal has been set up on the JustGiving website under St Mark’s, Farnborough.