Helen Dunmore - Author

About the Author

Helen Dunmore was the author of fourteen novels. Her first, Zennor in Darkness, explored the events which led to D H Lawrence’s expulsion from Cornwall (on suspicion of spying) during the First World War. It won the McKitterick Prize. Her third novel, A Spell of Winter, won the inaugural Orange Prize, now the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Siege, set during the Siege of Leningrad, was described by Antony Beevor as ‘a world-class novel’ and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Orange Prize.

Helen Dunmore’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages and she was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She died in June 2017.

Author photo © Caroline Forbes

Featured books by Helen Dunmore

Girl, Balancing &Other Stories

Girl, Balancing &Other Stories

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/03/2019

At once lyrical and sparse, intimate and expansive, delicate and sharp, this collection is the final work of a late, great writer who understood and articulated the subtle complexities of the human heart in each of her novels, poems and stories. The themes here will be familiar to Dunmore aficionados – friendship, family, folk at life’s liminal junctures. Take Nina, whose tales portray a young woman teetering into a new phase of life. She’s a naïve and lonely seventeen-year-old living in a drab bedsit, unsure of what to do, but making do and on the brink - one hopes - of finding her place in the world. Indeed, many of these stories explore life’s big transitions, and how individuals live with such precariousness, as in “A Night Out”, a life-affirming tale of two widows’ unforeseen unity beneath the stars. There’s much tenderness too, characters who awaken affection, a personal favourite being glorious Auntie Binnie, an unassuming companion to an old lady who blooms as an artist later in life (“Portrait of Auntie Binbag, with Ribbons”).   While Dunmore’s devotees will adore this treasure, I’d also recommend it wholeheartedly as an introduction to her exquisite writing.

Books of the Month
Girl, Balancing & Other Stories

Girl, Balancing & Other Stories

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/06/2018

At once lyrical and sparse, intimate and expansive, delicate and sharp, this collection is the final work of a late, great writer who understood and articulated the subtle complexities of the human heart in each of her novels, poems and stories. The themes here will be familiar to Dunmore aficionados – friendship, family, folk at life’s liminal junctures. Take Nina, whose tales portray a young woman teetering into a new phase of life. She’s a naïve and lonely seventeen-year-old living in a drab bedsit, unsure of what to do, but making do and on the brink - one hopes - of finding her place in the world. Indeed, many of these stories explore life’s big transitions, and how individuals live with such precariousness, as in “A Night Out”, a life-affirming tale of two widows’ unforeseen unity beneath the stars. There’s much tenderness too, characters who awaken affection, a personal favourite being glorious Auntie Binnie, an unassuming companion to an old lady who blooms as an artist later in life (“Portrait of Auntie Binbag, with Ribbons”). While Dunmore’s devotees will adore this treasure, I’d also recommend it wholeheartedly as an introduction to her exquisite writing.  

Star Books
Birdcage Walk

Birdcage Walk

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/08/2017

A breathtaking, evocative, and stormy tale set in the early 1790’s, just as the fallout from the French Revolution was spilling over into life in Britain. Lizzie Fawkes, daughter of a radical thinker and writer, has settled in Bristol and married a property developer, a man who has the vision to see a parade of buildings in the air, yet fights inner demons. Can Lizzie find her voice as an uncertain life rattles the caged bars of her husband’s will? Helen Dunmore creates a dark and intimate tale within a momentous time, a tense foreboding hovers and slowly sinks over the story, a feeling of inevitability steals across the pages. The writing, through the beautifully detailed description, transported me to the banks of the gorge, to the terrace as it grew out of the mud, to the general everyday life of the time. ‘Birdcage Walk’ is a captivating tale, at times sinister and eerie, yet hope flutters free and somehow manages to keep afloat. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Inside the Wave

Inside the Wave

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/04/2017

To be alive is to be inside the wave, always travelling until it breaks and is gone. These poems are concerned with the borderline between the living and the dead - the underworld and the human living world - and the exquisitely intense being of both. They possess a spare, eloquent lyricism as they explore the bliss and anguish of the voyage. Inside the Wave is Helen Dunmore's first new poetry book since The Malarkey (2012), whose title-poem won the National Poetry Competition. Her other books include Glad of These Times (2007), and Out of the Blue: Poems 1975-2001 (2001), a comprehensive selection drawing on seven previous collections. Her final poem, 'Hold out your arms', written shortly before her death and not included in the first printing of Inside the Wave, has now been added to the reprint.

eBooks of the Month
Exposure

Exposure

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2016

A wonderfully tense and arresting Cold War relationship tale, stuffed full to the brim with suspense. Set in 1960, couple Lily and Simon become caught in an unbelievably powerful web of lies. Normal everyday life intermingles with the hidden, and secrets are set to be exposed as the story slips with subtlety along the edge of an uncertain path. Some of the characters are not necessarily likeable, others are positively loathsome, but they all feel so very real. Helen Dunmore handles the intrigue with a masterly hand, hints and suggestions slither and slide through the story, creating uneasiness and suspicion. It is the small but not insignificant things that really bring this tale to life, the descriptions and the feelings create a vibrant ring of truth. ‘Exposure’ is an evocative, thrilling tale that I recommend setting aside some quality time for, once I started reading, I simply didn't want to stop. ~ Liz Robinson August 2016 Book of the Month.

eBooks of the Month
The Lie

The Lie

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/01/2014

January 2014 eBook of the Month. Shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize 2015. A tale rooted in the sadness of the effect of World War I on those who returned. We are going to get a lot of these in this centenary year. This one is from a very fine writer indeed. It tells of Daniel, a poor village boy, trying to forge a life while damaged and traumatised, intercepted with flashbacks to the war and to his relationship with a childhood friend. Official guidance information is included which is fascinating and Dunmore’s description of how things smell, the mud, dirt, wounds, men etc. is quite extraordinary. There are several lies and a huge amount of sadness; a most impressive book.

eBooks of the Month
The Betrayal

The Betrayal

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/02/2011

Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 24 February 2011. Betrayal is a powerful and touching novel of ordinary people in the grip of a terrible and sinister regime - 1950s Soviet Union, and a moving portrait of a love that will not be extinguished.

eBooks of the Month
The Siege

The Siege

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 16/12/2010

The setting once again for the seventh novel by Helen Dunmore is one of war.  The siege refers to the siege of Leningrad during WW2 by the Germans. It draws us deep into the Levin's family struggle to stay alive. It is a story about war and the wounds it inflicts on people's lives. It is also a lyrical and deeply moving celebration of love, life and survival.  Incredibly evocative descriptions of the desperate conditions of Lengingrad at the time invade every page and as is the hallmark of every Dunmore novel – incredibly well written.

eBooks of the Month
Your Blue-eyed Boy

Your Blue-eyed Boy

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 27/03/2008

As the summer ends the autumn mist begins to roll off the water towards Simone’s home, a chilling metaphor for the turn of events which are about to engulf her life. This is a story about relationships and blackmail, past and present lives, intertwined in a haunting, intense thriller. Do not expect the fast pace of a “whodunit” though, this is a novel which slowly and eerily unravels almost as if we are watching in slow motion as each moment effects the next.

eBooks of the Month
House of Orphans

House of Orphans

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 01/02/2007

Set in dangerous, unfamiliar times at the beginning of the 20th century, which strangely echo our own, the story reveals how terrorism lies hidden within ordinary life, as the rulers of Finland struggle to hold on to power as the Russian Empire exerts its muscle. House of Orphans  is the story of a girl, Eeva who has a hint of mysteriousness about her.  She’s the daughter of a failed revolutionary, who is sent to a country orphanage before being sent off to work as a servant where she finds love, but is unable to accept it for she feels committed to a boy from a childhood long ago, to whom she must now return.   Dunmore has woven an immensely rich, brilliant story of love, history and change.

eBooks of the Month
Mourning Ruby

Mourning Ruby

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 27/05/2004

Dunmore’s strength is in pulling together complex stories in a beautifully poetic language style and yet making the reading easily assimilated.  The interconnected threads to the story revolve mainly around loss; a girl left in a shoebox at 2 days old, the death of her daughter years later.  In order to understand the story of her life and her loss she listens to stories of the lives of friends and family.  Sounds rather morbid but there is great depth to the whole novel that will grab you as you read it.

eBooks of the Month
A Spell of Winter

A Spell of Winter

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 05/09/1996

  Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel.   Winner of the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction. This is a marvellous novel about forbidden passions and thwarted love by one of the UK's finest writers. A Spell of Winter  won the prestigious Orange Prize and deservedly so given its lyrical writing without a word out of place. You'll also be completely captivated by the skilfully crafted characters and by the love story and eventual redemption.

eBooks of the Month
Zennor in Darkness From the Women's Prize-Winning Author of A Spell of Winter

Zennor in Darkness From the Women's Prize-Winning Author of A Spell of Winter

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

They stand by side on the rock, facing out to sea. They are hidden from land here. Even spies would see nothing of them. It is spring 1917 in the Cornish coastal village of Zennor, and the young artist Clare Coyne is waking up to the world. Ignoring the whispers from her neighbours, she has struck a rare friendship with D.H. Lawrence and his German wife, who are hoping to escape the war-fever of London. In between painting and visits to her new friends she whiles away the warm days with her cousin John, who is on leave from the trenches, harbouring secrets she couldn't begin to understand. But as the heat picks up, so too do the fear and the gossip that haunt the village. And the freedom to love will come at a steep price. ______________________________________________ **Winner of the McKitterick Prize** 'Highly original and beautifully written' Sunday Telegraph 'Electrifying . . . Helen Dunmore mesmerizes you with her magical pen' Daily Mail 'Deceit gives Helen Dunmore's novel a jagged edge. Secrets, unspoken words, lies that have the truth wrapped up in them somewhere make Dunmore's stories ripples with menace and suspense' Sunday Times 'We believe in Clare's intelligence, talent and passion. A triumph' Independent on Sunday

eBooks of the Month

Other books by Helen Dunmore

The Greatcoat

The Greatcoat

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/01/2021

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life. Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in. His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on hers ...

The Islanders

The Islanders

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/08/2020

The Islanders by Helen Dunmore

A Spell of Winter

A Spell of Winter

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/06/2019

WINNER OF THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 'Tense, dark and intensely gripping . . . written so seductively that passages sing out from the page ' Sunday Times Cathy and her brother, Rob, don't know why they have been abandoned by their parents. Alone in their grandfather's decaying country house, they roam the wild grounds freely with minds attuned to the rural wilderness. Lost in their own private world, they seek and find new lines to cross. But as the First World War draws closer, crimes both big and small threaten the delicate refuge they have built. Cathy will do anything to protect their dark Eden from anyone, or anything, that threatens to destroy it. 'An electrifying and original talent, a writer whose style is characterized by a lyrical, dreamy intensity' Guardian 'Stops you in your tracks with the beauty of its writing' Observer 'Has a strong and sensuous magic' The Times 'Her spellbinding, lyrical prose is close to poetry' Daily Mail

Counting Backwards

Counting Backwards

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/02/2019

Winner of the Costa Book of the Year for her final collection, Inside the Wave, Helen Dunmore was as spellbinding storyteller in her poetry and in her prose. Her haunting narratives draw us into darkness, engaging our fears and hopes in poetry of rare luminosity, nowhere more so than in Inside the Wave, in its exploration of the borderline between the living and the dead - the underworld and the human living world - and the exquisitely intense being of both. All her poetry casts a bright, revealing light on the living world, by land and sea, on love, longing and loss. Counting Backwards is a retrospective covering ten collections written over four decades, bringing together all the poems she included in her earlier selection, Out of the Blue (2001), with all those from her three later collections, Glad of These Times (2007), The Malarkey (2012) and Inside the Wave (2017), along with a number of earlier poems.

Girl, Balancing & Other Stories

Girl, Balancing & Other Stories

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Ebook Release Date: 28/06/2018

Random House presents the audiobook edition of Girl, Balancing & Other Stories, by Helen Dunmore, read by Emilia Fox, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Juliet Stevenson.Haunting, uplifting, beautiful: the final work from Helen DunmoreHelen Dunmore passed away in June 2017, leaving behind this remarkable collection of short stories. With her trademark imagination and gift for making history human, she explores the fragile ties between passion, love, family, friendship and grief, often through people facing turning points in their lives:A girl alone, stretching her meagre budget to feed herself, becomes aware that the young man who has come to see her may not be as friendly as he seems.Two women from very different backgrounds enjoy an unusual night out, finding solace in laughter and an unexpected friendship.A young man picks up his infant son and goes outside into a starlit night as he makes a decision that will inform the rest of his life.A woman imprisoned for her religion examines her faith in a seemingly literal and quietly original way. This brilliant collection of Helen Dunmore's short fiction, replete with her penetrating insight into the human condition, is certain to delight and move all her listeners.

Birdcage Walk

Birdcage Walk

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: CD-Audio Release Date: 02/03/2017

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Grace Poole Her Testimony: A Short Story from the collection, Reader, I Married Him

Grace Poole Her Testimony: A Short Story from the collection, Reader, I Married Him

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Ebook Release Date: 21/04/2016

A short story by Helen Dunmore from the collection Reader, I Married Him: Stories inspired by Jane Eyre.In 'Grace Poole Her Testimony', Grace Poole defends Bertha Mason and calls the general opinion of Jane Eyre into question.Edited by Tracy Chevalier, the full collection, Reader, I Married Him, brings together some of the finest and most creative voices in fiction today, to celebrate and salute the strength and lasting relevance of Charlotte Bronte's game-changing novel and its beloved narrator.

Exposure

Exposure

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Audio disc Release Date: 28/01/2016

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

The Lie

The Lie

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/05/2014

Nominated for the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historial Fiction, and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. Set during and just after the First World War, The Lie is an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel of love, memory and devastating loss by one of the UK's most acclaimed storytellers. Cornwall, 1920, early spring. A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family. Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life. Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him. He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?

The Lonely Sea Dragon

The Lonely Sea Dragon

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/04/2013

The Lonely Sea Dragon by Helen Dunmore

Land Lubbers Lying Down Below

Land Lubbers Lying Down Below

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Ebook Release Date: 01/12/2012

'Tonight it is the concert. Two Prodigies of Nature are coming to play in my lady's ball-room. As soon as the concert begins I understand why the whole world comes to stare and listen.'Scipio is eleven years old and a lady's page. He plays the harpsichord, speaks French and German, and sings in Italian. But what was appealing and remarkable in a small child is no longer so in a 'hobbledehoy'. And after he meets the two child prodigies, Wolfi and Nannerl, at a concert, Scipio's fate will change forever.

Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 02/05/2006

Great for age range 9-12Helen Dunmore has done what few authors succeed in doing. She’s created an absolutely believable mythical world alongside our own. One that makes you want to be there more than anything else, one that is both spellbinding and magical. Ingo is a world in which you will be totally entranced and entrapped. And it’s so eloquently written.

The Tide Knot

The Tide Knot

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2012

Stunning reissue in a beautiful new cover-look of this second novel in the critically acclaimed Ingo Chronicles. I can't go back in the house. I'm restless, prickling all over. The wind hits me like slaps from huge invisible hands. But it's not the wind that worries me. It's something else, beyond the storm... Sapphire and Conor can't forget their adventures in Ingo, the mysterious world beneath the sea. They long to see their Mer friends Faro and Elvira, and swim with the dolphins once more. But a crisis is brewing far below the ocean's surface, where the wisest of the Mer guards the Tide Knot. And soon both Sapphire and Conor will be drawn into Ingo's troubled waters.

The Crossing of Ingo

The Crossing of Ingo

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2012

Stunning reissue in a beautiful new cover-look of this fourth novel in the critically acclaimed Ingo Chronicles. Sapphire, Conor and their Mer friends Faro and Elvira are ready to make the Crossing of Ingo - a long and dangerous journey that only the strongest young Mer are called upon to make. No human being has ever attempted this thrilling voyage to the bottom of the world. Ervys, his followers and new recruits, the sharks, are determined that Sapphire and Conor must be stopped - dead or alive...

Stormswept

Stormswept

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2012

An atmospheric and beautifully written adventure, from the award-winning author of the Ingo series. Morveren lives with her parents and twin sister Jenna on an island off the coast of Cornwall. As Morveren and Jenna's relationship shifts and changes, like driftwood on the tide, Morveren finds a beautiful teenage boy in a rock pool after a storm. Going to his rescue, she is shocked to see that he is not human but a Mer boy. With Jenna refusing to face the truth, Morveren finds herself alone at the worst possible time. Because when the worlds of Air and Mer meet, the consequences can be terrible...

The Deep

The Deep

Author: Helen Dunmore Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2012

Stunning reissue in a beautiful new cover-look of this third novel in the critically acclaimed Ingo Chronicles. A devastating flood has torn through the worlds of Air and Ingo, and now, deep in the ocean, a monster is stirring. Mer legend says that only those with dual blood - half Mer, half human - can overcome the Kraken. Sapphy must return to the Deep, with the help of her friend the whale, and face this terrifying creature - and her brother Conor and Mer friend Faro will not let her go alone...

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