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

The Bookshop

The Bookshop

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/01/1998

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

eBooks of the Month
The Beginning of Spring

The Beginning of Spring

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/04/1989

April 2010 Guest Editor Katharine McMahon on Penelope Fitzgerald... Highly evocative of time and place this wonderful novel set in the early 20th century is funny, touching and curious. A real treasure of a novel. 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. * Selected by our Spring 2021 Guest Editor, Guy Gavriel Kay... A.S. Byatt wrote once that she could make a good case for Penelope Fitzgerald as the best 20th century novelist in the English language in the post-war period. I don’t tend to think in such terms but … I get it. Fitzgerald — especially, but not only, her last four books — is an absolute favourite of mine, and through rereads, too. (Rereading can be a joy, and dangerous sometimes, too.) She started very late in life as a novelist, which will be encouraging for some. Her best book is generally — and rightly, I think — considered to be The Blue Flower, but my favourite, for the humour, tenderness, unexpectedly wry delights it offers, is her novel set 1913 in Russia, The Beginning of Spring. It has, for a protagonist, a beleaguered English printing shop owner in a wonderfully evoked Moscow. His wife has just left him and their three small children, without warning, to return to England. The year is significant: we are on the eve, but not yet the immediate arrival, of the Revolution, and the Great War. There is, among other joys here, a scene in a birch wood at night that is simply unforgettable, because of how mysterious it is. Indeed, the drowsy child allowed to come into the forest is told that ‘she'll understand in time what she's seen.’ She doesn’t, then, nor do we, entirely. It haunts in good part because of that, a small miracle of writing.

eBooks of the Month
The Blue Flower

The Blue Flower

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/04/2019

Penelope Fitzgerald's final masterpiece. One of the ten books - novels, memoirs and one very unusual biography - that make up our Matchbook Classics' series, a stunningly redesigned collection of some of the best loved titles on our backlist. The year is 1794 and Fritz, passionate, idealistic and brilliant, is seeking his father's permission to announce his engagement to his 'heart's heart', his 'true Philosophy': 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. Her final book, it confirmed Fitzgerald's reputation as one of the finest novelists of the 20th century.

eBooks of the Month
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.

eBooks of the Month

Other books by Penelope Fitzgerald

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.

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.

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

So I Have Thought of You

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback 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.

The Afterlife

The Afterlife

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/09/2004

The Afterlife by Penelope Fitzgerald

Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Burne-Jones

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback 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.

The Means of Escape

The Means of Escape

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback 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 Knox Brothers

The Knox Brothers

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/07/2001

The Knox Brothers by Penelope Fitzgerald

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: 31/05/2001

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.

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