Novelist Jane Gardam was born Jean Mary Pearson in Coatham, North Yorkshire on July 11, 1928. She was educated at Saltburn High School for Girls and won a scholarship to the University of London, where she read English at Bedford College. In 1951 she worked as a Red Cross Travelling Librarian to Hospital Libraries, afterwards taking up editorial posts at Weldon Ladies Journal (sub-editor, 1952) and the literary weekly Time and Tide (Assistant Editor, 1952-4).
Her first book for adults, Black Faces, White Faces (1975), a collection of linked short stories about Jamaica, won both the David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. Subsequent collections of short stories include The Pangs of Love and Other Stories (1983), winner of the Katherine Mansfield Award; Going into a Dark House (1994), which was awarded the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award (1995); and Missing the Midnight: Hauntings & Grotesques (1997).
Gardam's first novel for adults, God on the Rocks (1978), a coming-of-age novel set in the 1930s, was adapted for television in 1992. It won the Prix Baudelaire (France) in 1989 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Her other novels include The Queen of the Tambourine (1991), a haunting tale about a woman's fascination with a mysterious stranger, which won the Whitbread Novel Award; Faith Fox (1996), a portrait of England in the 1990s; and The Flight of the Maidens (2000), set just after the Second World War, which narrates the story of three Yorkshire schoolgirls on the brink of university and adult life. This book was adapted for BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. In 1999 Gardam was awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in recognition of a distinguished literary career.
Her non-fiction includes a book about the Yorkshire of her childhood in The Iron Coast (1994), published with photographs by Peter Burton and Harland Walshaw.
She also writes for children and young adults. Her novel Bilgewater (1977), originally written for children, has now been re-classified as adult fiction. She was awarded the Whitbread Children's Book Award for The Hollow Land (1981). She is also the author of A Few Fair Days (1971), a collection of short stories for children set on a Cumberland farm, and two novels for teenagers: A Long Way From Verona (1971), which explores a wartime childhood in Yorkshire; and The Summer After the Funeral (1973), a story about a loss of innocence after the death of a father.
Gardam is a member of PEN and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is married with three children and divides her time between East Kent and Yorkshire. Her latest books are The People on Privilege Hill (2007), a collection of short stories, and the novel, The Man in the Wooden Hat (2009).
This biography was last updated on 01/09/2014.
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