Main content

My friend Theresa May, Jane Austen, Summer solstice

Why do we think of Jane Austen as cosy? We discuss her fascination with war, money and risky romance. And Dame Caroline Spelman MP talks about her friend Theresa May.

After a disappointing general election, three terror attacks in as many weeks and criticism over her handling of the Grenfell Tower fire - Theresa May's critics are calling her future into question. Dame Caroline Spelman MP entered Parliament in 1997, the same year as the Prime Minister. Dame Spelman is here to talk about her friend and colleague Theresa May.

The image that we have of Jane Austen and her work is frequently one of cosy domesticity, country houses, English restraint and propriety. And this endures despite the fact that Austen's novels are usually set against the backdrop of war, revolve around serious money problems and often involve characters who behave extremely badly. Keen to explode the cosiness myth are Professor Emma Clery whose book, The Banker's Sister, explores the financial influences on Austen's life and work, and Professor Kathryn Sutherland who has curated an exhibition and written an accompanying book, Jane Austen: Writer in the World.

We are celebrating summer solstice, the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Radio 4 is marking the change of season with a series of poems across the day. Joining us, the Northumberland poet Katrina Porteous who reads an extract from her poem Dunstanburgh.

The latest in our series about leaving prison, this is Roberta's story. After 20 years in and out of the system, Roberta is drug free and trying to make the most of the help available to her. Our reporter Milly Chowles joins the Through Care Team from HMP Cornton Vale who are helping Roberta with her methadone prescriptions, housing, budgeting and the terrible loneliness she feels.

Available now

41 minutes



  • Dame Caroline Spelman MP for The Meridien in The West Midlands

    Duration: 12:05

  • Jane Austen: Why Does She Have Such a Cosy Image?

    Duration: 11:32

  • Leaving Prison 4

    Duration: 10:29

  • Four Seasons Poetry

    Duration: 03:59

Women Leaving Prison

Women's Breakout For helping women to find services that provide support for vulnerable women, including those in trouble with the law. There’s a search function on there that women can use to find services in their area.

Prison Reform Trust  Advice and information service for people currently in prison which families and friends of people in prison may want to let their loved ones know about if they need help. 


Role Contributor
Interviewed Guest Caroline Spelman
Interviewed Guest Emma Clery
Interviewed Guest Kathryn Sutherland
Interviewed Guest Katrina Porteous
Reporter Milly Chowles
Presenter Jane Garvey


Late Night Woman's Hour

Late Night Woman's Hour

Lauren Laverne, Emma Barnett and guests in frank and funny Late Night Woman's Hour.

The Menopause

The Menopause

A series exploring its impact on women’s work and relationships, and potential treatments



Four women struggle to reclaim their identity after being abused online.

Woman's Hour video

Woman's Hour video

Visual delights from Woman's Hour.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us on Instagram

Get all the pictures, videos, behind the scenes and more from Woman’s Hour