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Penelope Fitzgerald A Life by Hermione Lee

Penelope Fitzgerald A Life

Biography / Autobiography   eBook Favourites   

Sue Baker's view...

Penelope Fitzgerald left Oxford University with a first class honours degree burning to write but it wasn’t to be, marriage and children subsumed her, problems and lack of money, her husband’s alcoholism meant she had to work full-time and it was not till she was 60 that her first novel was published. Hermione Lee’s biography untangles the life of this most elusive and reticent of novelists awaking the desire of readers to explore her writing anew.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. This is a perceptive, sympathetic portrait of a woman whose novels ‘all are strange and original masterpieces’; a woman who came late to writing, first publishing when she was sixty, winning the Booker Prize shortly thereafter, and achieving real fame at eighty; a person whose family motto was ‘do the difficult thing’, and whose life, in both domestic terms and career ones, showed she lived up to it. With a comprehensive analysis of her novels and of Penelope Fitzgerald’s non-fiction work, and following the interconnected themes, the biography is balanced by personal knowledge and research drawing on many who knew her well. The result is a thoroughly absorbing account of a most unusual, highly gifted woman.
~ The Good Book Guide


Penelope Fitzgerald A Life by Hermione Lee

This is the winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography 2014.

Brilliant and passionate ...a haunting tale of blighted hope, personal tragedy and rare, late fulfilment . (Observer). Penelope Fitzgerald published her first book aged sixty. She went on to become one of the greatest of English novelists. Her remarkable life spans most of the twentieth century, and moves from a Bishop's Palace to a sinking barge, from a demanding intellectual family to hardship and poverty, from a life of teaching and obscurity to a blaze of renown. She was awarded the Booker Prize in 1979 for her novel Offshore, and her last work, The Blue Flower, is widely acclaimed as a work of genius. This brilliant account - by a biographer whom Fitzgerald herself admired - pursues her life, her writing, and her secret self, with fascinated interest, and has become one of the most celebrated literary biographies of recent times.

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'Excellent... [Hermione] Lee is a perfect choice as Fitzgerald's biographer. She has done a superb job, capturing an elusive personality and a complex, sometimes rather harrowing story.'

- Philip Hensher Guardian

'Lee elucidates the depth of [Fitzgerald's] achievement, and ties it enthrallingly to a life and personality more complex and difficult than anyone imagined. In a perfect literary biography, Lee plumbs the creative mind beneath that persona, tracing the metamorphosis of messy experience into crystalline art.'

-Financial Times

'Brilliant and passionate...a haunting tale of blighted hope, personal tragedy and rare, late fulfilment. Thanks to this sympathetic biography, [Fitzgerald's] afterlife shows signs of becoming finally blessed with understanding, admiration and respect.'

- Robert McCrum Observer

'Admirable and perceptive... Hermione Lee non-judgmentally excavates this extraordinary life. Her biography is very good indeed.'

- Susan Hill The Times

'A worthy monument to one of the finest English novelists of the second half of the 20th century.'

- Jonathan Derbyshire Prospect

'Adroitly executed and meticulously researched... insightful... Ms Lee's shrewd examination makes this a riveting biography.'


'Lee's absorbing biography is the story of a late starter... [She] is partisan in her project: she means to expose a truth she is certain of -- that Fitzgerald is a great English writer . Her feat is to have woven an involving narrative out of such a skeletal life...Excellent...'

- Nicholas Shakespeare Telegraph

'This book will hold insights and treats for any admirer of [Fitzgerald's] fiction, and recruit converts to this reticent, witty, ferocious champion of the utterly downtrodden.'

- Emma Townshend Independent

'Her book is in the very best tradition of critical literary biography. Phenomenally well researched and elegantly written, with a fine, dynamic fluency and lucid understanding, this is a very good biography indeed.'

-The Tablet

'This elegant, richly researched biography tells a tale of misfortunes borne with dignity, humour and courage, and finally of quiet triumphs.'

- Michele Roberts i

'The literary biography of the year.'

- Philip Hensher Spectator

'A perfect match of author and subject.

- Leo Robson New Statesman

'Lee's book has had more influence on my reading than anything else this year.'

- John Lanchester Guardian

'A compelling account of the life and work of Penelope Fitzgerald.'

- Mark Lawson Guardian

'A masterly discussion of the work of that fine novelist and an illuminating account of the life of a complex and elusive person.'

- Penelope Lively Guardian

About the Author

Hermione Lee is a biographer, critic, and teacher of literature. Her previous books include the internationally acclaimed biography, Virginia Woolf ('One of the most impressive biographies of the decade: moving, eloquent, powerful', Financial Times) and Edith Wharton ('A feat of exhaustive research... a glorious biography', Independent on Sunday), as well as books on Elizabeth Bowen, Willa Cather and Philip Roth. Her collection of essays on life-writing, Body Parts, was published in 2005, and her Biography: A Very Short Introduction in 2009. She is the President of Wolfson College Oxford. In 2013 she was made a Dame for services to Literary Scholarship. She lives in Oxford and Yorkshire.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd November 2014


Hermione Lee

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Vintage an imprint of Vintage Publishing


544 pages


Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites

Biography: literary



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