Jane Gardam

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Jane Mary Gardam, OBE FRSL (born 11 July 1928) is an English writer of children's and adult fiction. She also writes reviews for The Spectator and The Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon, and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards, including the Whitbread Award twice. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.[1]


Gardam was born in Coatham, North Yorkshire, to William and Kathleen Mary Pearson, and grew up in Cumberland and the North Riding of Yorkshire. At the age of seventeen, she won a scholarship to read English at Bedford College, London, now part of Royal Holloway, University of London (BA English, 1949).[2] After leaving university, Gardam worked in a number of literary-related jobs, starting off as a Red Cross Travelling Librarian for hospital libraries, and later a journalist.[3]

She married David Gardam QC and they had three children, Tim, Catharine (Kitty) Nicholson, a botanical artist who died in 2011,[4] and Tom.

Gardam's first book was a children's novel, A Long Way From Verona, a 13-year-old girl's first-person narrative, was published in 1971.[5] It won the Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association in 1991, which recognizes the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award.[6]

Although she did not publish her first book until she was in her 40s, she has become one of the most prolific novelists of her generation, with 25 books published over the past 30 years and a number of prestigious prizes to her name. She is the only writer to have won the Whitbread for best novel twice (for The Hollow Land, 1981, and The Queen of the Tambourine, 1991). She has been nominated for the Booker Prize for God on the Rocks (1978). Her short stories and children's fiction have also won prizes, and in 1999 she was given the Heywood Hill award for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature. Gardam is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

In her most recent works of fiction she has explored related themes and recounted stories from different points of view in three novels: Old Filth (2004), The Man in the Wooden Hat (2009), and Last Friends (2013). One American reviewer noted that her concern with "the intricate web of manners and class peculiar to the inhabitants of her homeland" does not explain why she remains less well known to an international audience than her English contemporaries.[7] He recommended Old Filth for its "typical excellence and compulsive readability", written by a novelist "at the top of her form".[7] The Spectator praised The Man in the Wooden Hat for its "rich complexities of chronology, settings and characters, all manipulated with marvellous dexterity".[8]

Gardam received the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a Lifetime's Contribution to Literature in 1999.[citation needed]

In 2017, Wimbledon BookFest launched the Jane Gardam Short Story Award to honour her contribution to literature.[citation needed]

Works and recognition[edit]

Children's books[edit]

  • A Long Way from Verona (1971)
  • A Few Fair Days (1971)
  • The Summer After the Funeral (1973)
  • Bridget and William (1981)
  • The Hollow Land (1981), received the 1983 Whitbread Children's Book Award
  • Horse (1982)
  • Kit (1983)
  • Kit in Boots (1986)
  • Swan (1987)
  • Through the Doll's House Door (1987)
  • Black Woolly Pony (1993)
  • Tufty Bear (1996)
  • The Kit Stories (1998)

Short story collections[edit]

  • Black Faces, White Faces (1975), David Higham Prize for Fiction (1975), Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize (1975)
  • The Sidmouth Letters (1980)
  • The Pangs of Love and Other Stories (1983), Katherine Mansfield Award for 1984
  • Showing the Flag and Other Stories (1989)
  • Trio: Three Stories from Cheltenham (1993)
  • Going into a Dark House (1994), PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award for 1995
  • Missing the Midnight (1997)
  • The Green Man (1998)
  • The People on Privilege Hill (2007), nominated for the National Short Story Prize[9]
  • The Stories of Jane Gardam (2014)



  • The Iron Coast (1994)


  1. ^ "No. 58929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2008. p. 10. 
  2. ^ "Royal Holloway, London website", Notable alumni, Royal Holloway, University of London, retrieved 31 May 2013 
  3. ^ Miller, Lucasta (29 July 2005). "Novel existence". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Catharine Nicholson". The Telegraph (UK). 8 July 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Bader, Barbara (7 May 1972). "A Long Way From Verona". New York Times. 
  6. ^ "Phoenix Award Brochure 2012"[permanent dead link]. Children's Literature Association. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b Gray, Paul (23 July 2006). "Orphan of the Empire". New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Caitling, Patrick Skene. "Rich pickings". The Spectator. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  9. ^ British Council. "Jane Gardam - British Council Literature". contemporarywriters.com. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "The 2014 Folio Prize Shortlist is Announced". Folio Prize. 10 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Gaby Wood (10 February 2014). "Folio Prize 2013: The Americans are coming, but not the ones we were expecting". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 

External links[edit]