She has been nominated for the Booker Prize several times, but has never won it. In spite of this, she has been described as one of the greatest living British novelists.
Born in Liverpool, educated at Merchant Taylors' School, she spent her early years working as an actress, leaving the theatre to have her first child. Her first novel, Harriet Said... was written at this time, it was to be her third published novel, having been rejected by several publishers who found it "repulsive", and "indecent". It was published after Another Part of the Wood (1968) and An Awfully Big Adventure (1970).
Her early novels are retellings of her life, such as An Awfully Big Adventure which is set in provincial theatre and was adapated as a film by Mike Newell in 1995, starring Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. She later turned to her family's history, and after that historial novels, such as Master Georgie set in the Crimean War.
Her most recent novel, According to Queeney is a fictionalized account of the last years of the life of Samuel Johnson as seen through the eyes of 'Queeney Thrale', daughter of Henry Thrale and Hester Thrale, and received wide acclaim.
1968 - Another Part of the Wood
1970 - An Awfully Big Adventure
1972 - Harriet Said
1973 - The Dressmaker
1974 - The Bottle Factory Outing
1974 - The Secret Glass
1975 - Sweet William
1976 - A Quiet Life
1977 - Injury Time
1978 - Young Adolf
1980 - Winter Garden
1980 - Scott's Last Expedition
1981 - A Weekend with Claude
1984 - English Journey
1984 - Watson's Apology
1986 - Filthy Lucre
1991 - The Birthday Boys
1993 - Something Happened Yesterday
1995 - Watson's Apology
1996 - Every Man for Himself
1998 - Master Georgie
1999 - Forever England: North and South
2001 - According to Queeney