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Penelope Fitzgerald - Author

About the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. She was the author of nine novels, three of which – The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels – were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award, and this helped introduce her to a wider international readership.

A superb biographer and critic, Penelope Fitzgerald was also the author of lives of the artist Edward Burne-Jones (her first book), the poet Charlotte Mew and The Knox Brothers – a study of her remarkable father Edmund Knox, editor of Punch, and his equally remarkable brothers.

Penelope Fitzgerald did not embark on her literary career until the age of sixty. After graduating from Somerville College, Oxford, she worked at the BBC during the war, edited a literary journal, ran a bookshop and taught at various schools, including a theatrical school; her early novels drew upon many of these experiences.

She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

Click here to read Penelope Fitzgerald's son-in-law discuss her legacy to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Fellow novelist Katharine McMahon on Penelope Fitzgerald...

I was introduced to this author just as I began to be published, and I love her wit, and her quirky approach to plot.  The Beginning of Spring is a delicious novel, and it's as if the entire book is pitched towards the very last few lines.  This reads like a small, perfectly formed, Russian novel, but amazingly is written by a very English author.

Featured books by Penelope Fitzgerald

Other books by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Bookshop

The Bookshop

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 18/05/2018

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.

Bookshop

Bookshop

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: eBook Release Date: 15/12/2016

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize.In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.

Offshore

Offshore

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: eBook Release Date: 15/12/2016

Penelope Fitzgerald's Booker Prize-winning novel of loneliness and connecting is set among the houseboat community of the Thames and has a new introduction from Alan Hollinghurst. On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames. There is good-natured Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by chance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, an ex-navy man whose boat, much like its owner, dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, an abandoned wife and mother of two young girls running wild on the muddy foreshore, whose domestic predicament, as it deepens, will draw this disparate community together.

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: eBook Release Date: 15/12/2016

From the Booker Prize-winning author of 'Offshore' comes this unusual romance between the poet Novalis and his fiancee Sophie, newly introduced by Candia McWilliam. The year is 1794 and Fritz, passionate, idealistic and brilliant, is seeking his father's permission to announce his engagement to his heart's desire: twelve-year-old Sophie. His astounded family and friends are amused and disturbed by his betrothal. What can he be thinking?Tracing the dramatic early years of the young German who was to become the great romantic poet and philosopher Novalis, 'The Blue Flower' is a masterpiece of invention, evoking the past with a reality that we can almost feel.

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: eBook Release Date: 02/06/2015

The Blue Flower is set in the age of Goethe, in the small towns and great universities of late eighteenth-century Germany. It tells the true story of Friedrich von Hardenberg, a passionate, impetuous student of philosophy who will later gain fame as the romantic poet Novalis. Fritz seeks his father's permission to wed his "e;heart's heart,"e; his "e;spirit's guide"e;-a plain, simple child named Sophie von Kuhn. It is an attachment that shocks his family and friends. Their brilliant young Fritz, betrothed to a twelve-year-old dullard? How can this be?The irrationality of love, the transfiguration of the commonplace, the clarity of purpose that comes with knowing one's own fate-these are the themes of this beguiling novel, themes treated with a mix of wit, grace, and mischievous humor.

Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Burne-Jones

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 08/05/2014

Penelope Fitzgerald, the Booker Prize-winning author of `Offshore' and `The Blue Flower', turns her attention to the remarkable life of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. `I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be, in a light better than any light that ever shone - in a land no one can define or remember, only desire' Edward Burne-Jones Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) was the prototypical pre-Raphaelite but with a truly individual sensibility. Penelope Fitzgerald's delightful biography charts his life from humble beginnings in Birmingham as the son of an unsuccessful framer, through a transformative period at Oxford, where he met his close friend and collaborator William Morris, and on to the apprenticeship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti that would shape his artistic vision. His work harks back to an Arthurian England - an Arcadia that offered solace against the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and on a deeply personal level provided respite from his ever-present melancholia. This is an illuminating portrait of a fascinating figure - artistic genius, doting father, troubled husband - written with all Penelope Fitzgerald's characteristic sympathy and insight.

Gate of Angels

Gate of Angels

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: eBook Release Date: 21/07/2010

It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. In lecture halls and laboratories, the model of a universe governed by the mind of God is at last giving way to something wholly rational, a universe governed by the laws of physics. To junior fellow Fred Fairly, this comes as a great comfort. Science, he is certain, will soon explain everything. Mystery will be routed by reason, and the demands of the soul will be seen for what they are, a distraction and an illusion. Into Fred's orderly life comes Daisy, with a bang-literally. One moment the two are perfect strangers; the next, they are casualties of a freakish accident, occupants of the same warm bed. Fred has never been so close to a woman before, one so pretty, so plainspoken, and yet so mysterious. Is she a manifestation of chaos, or a sign of another kind of order?

So I Have Thought of You The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald

So I Have Thought of You The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 06/08/2009

A fascinating collection of letters from the great English novelist - and prolific correspondent - Penelope Fitzgerald. Acclaimed for her exquisitely elegant novels - including the Booker Prize-winning `Offshore' - and superb biographies, Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the finest British authors of the last century. Published here for the first time are her collected letters. An unparalleled record of the life of this greatly admired writer, these letters reveal her most important family relationships and friendships, and paint a clear picture both of herself and of her correspondents. They show us how she managed her own career - according to her own convictions - and how determined she was to put her world view across. A fascinating portrait of Penelope Fitzgerald as a mother, as a friend and as a writer, these letters give the same pleasure they gave to those who first opened them. Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most distinctive voices in British literature. The prize-winning author of nine novels, three biographies and one collection of short stories, she died in 2000.

Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Burne-Jones

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/09/2003

Edward Burne-Jones is well known as a Pre-Raphelite painter, but little is known about his life. Here, in her first book, Penelope Fitzgerald paints a portrait of one of the most interesting and individual of all Victorian artists.

Offshore, Human Voices, The Beginning Of Spring

Offshore, Human Voices, The Beginning Of Spring

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald, John Oliver Bayley Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/09/2003

Sixty-one when she published her first novel, Penelope Fitzgerald based many subsequent books on the experiences of a long and varied life. Offshore, which won the Booker Prize in 1979, explores her time living on a barge at Battersea Reach. Human Voices takes place in the BBC where she worked during World War II. Both are vivid, intimate pictures of ordinary life, startling, sad and funny by turns, conjuring up complex worlds with the economy of poetry. The Beginning of Spring is an historical novel operating on a larger canvas. It presents a life unknown to the author through a story of English emigres in pre-Revolutionary Russia and has been described by one critic as the best `Russian' novel of the twentieth century. Written with energy, passion and wit, and each quite different from the others, all three of these masterpieces reveal a lightness of touch with the most serious matters unlike anything else in contemporary fiction.

Charlotte Mew And Her Friends

Charlotte Mew And Her Friends

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/11/2002

Penelope Fitzgerald's fascinating portrait of the tragic poet and her life at the heart of the Bloomsbury set. Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) cut one of the most distinctive figures of the twentieth century - beloved of Siegfried Sassoon and Walter de la Mare (for whom she was `a very rare being'), unafraid of Virginia Woolf, and considered by Hardy to be `far and away the best living woman poet'. Part of a new wave of fashionable female dandies who lived passionate, precarious existences in Bloomsbury, she was an enchanting and spirited personality. But behind the brave face was a life riddled with grief: left to care for her disturbed mother, two siblings with undiagnosed Schizophrenia and Charlotte herself burdened by depression and closeted lesbianism; she killed herself by drinking household disinfectant. In this unexpectedly gripping portrait of a life of passion unfulfilled, Penelope Fitzgerald brings all her novelist's skills into play in telling a story that is at once tragic, beautiful and deeply human.

The Knox Brothers

The Knox Brothers

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald, Holmes Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 14/01/2002

Penelope Fitzgerald's biography of her remarkable family. `When I was very young I took my uncles for granted, and it never occurred to me that everyone else in the world was not like them.' In this, only her second book, Penelope Fitzgerald turned her novelist's gaze on the quite extraordinary lives of her father and his three brothers. A masterly work of biography, within which we see Penelope Fitzgerald exercising her pen magnificently before she began her novel-writing career. Edmund Knox, her father, was one of the most successful editors of Punch. Dillwyn, a Cambridge Greek scholar, was the first to crack the Nazi's message decoding system, Enigma, and in so doing, is estimated to have shortened the Second World War by six months. Wilfred became an Anglo-Catholic priest and an active welfare worker in the East End of London. Ronald, the best known of the four during his lifetime, was Roman Catholic chaplain to Oxford University's student body, preacher, wit, scholar, crime-writer and translator of the Bible. A homage to a long-forgotten world and a fascinating account of the generation straddling the divide between late Victorian and Edwardian.

The Means of Escape

The Means of Escape

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 15/10/2001

A collection of Penelope Fitzgerald's short stories. Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most highly-regarded writers on the English literary scene. Apart from Iris Murdoch, no other writer has been shortlisted so many times for the Booker. Her last novel, `The Blue Flower', was the book of its year, garnering extraordinary acclaim in Britain, America and Europe. This superb collection of stories, originally published in anthologies and newspapers, shows Penelope Fitzgerald at her very best. From the tale of a young boy in 17-century England who loses a precious keepsake and finds it frozen in a puddle of ice, to that of a group of buffoonish amateur Victorian painters on a trip to Brittany, these stories are characteristically wide ranging, enigmatic and very funny. They are each miniature studies of the endless absurdity of human behaviour.

The Bookshop, The Gate Of Angels And The Blue Flower

The Bookshop, The Gate Of Angels And The Blue Flower

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/05/2001

Penelope Fitzgerald, who died in 2000, emerged late in life as one of the most remarkable English writers of the last century. The three novels in this volume all display her characteristic wit, intellectual breadth and narrative brilliance, applied to the different traditional forms into which she breathed new life. The Bookshop is a contemporary comedy of manners, set in a provincial town. InThe Gate of Angels romance is combined with the novel of ideas; while The Blue Flower revitalizes historical drama in a study of the eighteenth-century German writer Novalis. Fitzgerald being the genius of the relevant detail and the deftly sketched conceptual context, each book conjures up a different world in a few vivid pages which remain etched on the memory.

At Freddie's

At Freddie's

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 06/10/1997

Penelope Fitzgerald's brilliant novel about life at an eccentric stage school. In the 1960s, Freddie's was the usual name for the Temple Stage School, which supplied the West End theatres with children for roles in everything from Shakespeare to pantomime. Freddie, the proprietress, is a formidable woman, of unknown age and provenance. But everybody who is anybody claims to know her. By sheer force of character and single-minded thrust she has turned herself into a national institution. This story of what happened at Freddie's is not only for theatre-lovers, but for people who care about children or hate them, or were - once upon a time - children themselves. In particular, it is for those of us who sometimes pretend to be what we are not - that is to say, act a little.

The Golden Child

The Golden Child

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald, Charles Saumarez Smith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 13/06/1994

`The Golden Child', Penelope Fitzgerald's first work of fiction, is a classically plotted British mystery centred around the arrival of the Golden Child at a London museum. Far be it for the hapless Waring Smith, junior officer at a prominent London museum, to expect any kind of thanks for his work on the opening of the year's biggest exhibition - The Golden Child. But when he is nearly strangled to death by a shadowy assailant and packed off to Moscow to negotiate with a mysterious curator, he finds himself at the centre of a sinister web of conspiracy, fraudulent artifacts and murder... Her first novel and a comic gem, `The Golden Child' is written with the sharp wit and unerring eye for human foibles that mark Penelope Fitzgerald out as a truly inimitable author, and one to be cherished.

The Gate of Angels

The Gate of Angels

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald, Philip Hensher Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/09/1991

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. Fred Fairly, a Junior Fellow at the college of St Angelicus, where for centuries no female, not even a pussy cat, has been allowed to set foot, lectures in physics. Science, he is certain, will explain everything. Until into Fred's orderly life come Daisy. Fred is smitten. Why have I met her? he wonders. How can I tell if she's quite what she seems? Fred is a scientist. To him the truth should be everything. But even scientists make mistakes.

Human Voices

Human Voices

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald, Mark Damazer Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 30/11/1988

From the Booker Prizewinning author of `Offshore' and `The Blue Flower'; a funny, touching, authentic story of life at Broadcasting House during the Blitz. The human voices of Penelope Fitzgerald's novel are those of the BBC in the first years of the World War II, the time when the Concert Hall was turned into a dormitory for both sexes, the whole building became a target for enemy bombers, and in the BBC - as elsewhere - some had to fail and some had to die, but where the Nine O'Clock News was always delivered, in impeccable accents, to the waiting nation.

Innocence

Innocence

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 22/06/1987

A new edition of the Booker Prize winner Penelope Fitzgerald's best-loved novel of romance in post-war Italy, with a new introduction by Julian Barnes. The Ridolfis are a Florentine family of long lineage and little money. It is 1955, and the family, like its decrepit villa and farm, has seen better days. Only eighteen-year-old Chiara shows anything like vitality. Chiara has set her heart on Salvatore, a young and brilliant doctor who resolved long ago to be emotionally dependent on no one. Faced with this, she calls on her English girlfriend Barney to help her make the impossible match...

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