Sara Maitland

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Sara Maitland
BornSarah Louise Maitland
(1950-02-27) 27 February 1950 (age 73)
London, United Kingdom
OccupationWriter of short stories, novelist, amateur theologian
GenreNonfiction, fiction, theology, gardening
SubjectChristianity, saints, lives of women, mythology, fairy tales
Notable worksDaughter of Jerusalem, "True North"/"Far North" (short story), A Big Enough God, A Book of Silence
Notable awardsSomerset Maugham Award (1979) – Daughter of Jerusalem
Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Prize (nomination, 2009) – A Book of Silence
BBC National Short Story Award (runner up, 2009) – "Moss Witch"

Sara Maitland (born 27 February 1950) is a British writer of religious fantasy. A novelist, she is also known for her short stories. Her work has a magic realist tendency.

Life and career[edit]

Sarah (later "Sara") Louise Maitland[1] was born in London as the second of six children of Adam Maitland (a descendant of the judge Thomas Maitland, Lord Dundrennan)[2] and Hope Baillie Fraser-Campbell. Adam Maitland's mother, Cecil Louise, was from the Scottish family of Mackenzie of Portmore descending from Colin Mackenzie of Portmore, friend of Walter Scott.[3][4] Maitland has described her upper-class London family[5] as "very open and noisy".[6] In her childhood she went to school in a small Wiltshire town[7] and attended St Mary's, a girls' boarding school in Calne, from the age of 12 until her admission to university. Maitland thought this school a terrible place and became very excitable.[8]

Growing up, Maitland developed a wild reputation: in 1966 she scandalised one of her brothers by winning a foot race in a very short cotton dress.[9] On entering Oxford University in 1968 to study English, she became friends with future US President Bill Clinton[10] "and a regular visitor at 46 Leckford Road, a house Clinton shared with Frank Aller, Jana (Jan) Brenning and Strobe Talbott".[11][12] She suffered from problems of mental disarray and inability to carry out routine tasks.[13] During her college years, Maitland was taken to a mental hospital on several occasions for this reason,[14] but she completed her course and soon turned to writing.

Maitland originally became regarded as one of those at the vanguard of the 1970s feminist movement and is often described as a feminist writer.[citation needed]

She has been absorbed in religion since 1972. From 1972 to 1993 she was married to an Anglican priest, but divorced in 1993 and became a Roman Catholic.[15] In 1995, she worked with Stanley Kubrick on the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

She has two adult children.[16] Maitland's daughter Polly Lee is an actress best known for her work on the American television series The Americans and Gotham.[17] Maitland's son Adam Lee is a photographer best known for his photographic series Identity Documents and his work with Look - Liverpool International Photography Festival.[18] Since Adam left college, Maitland has moved towards a solitary and prayerful life[19] in a variety of locations, first of all on the Isle of Skye and ultimately in her present house in Galloway. She says today that she wants to avoid most of the comforts of life, especially those that intrude into her quest for silence such as mobile phones, radio, television and even her son.[20] She has described these changes in her life and the experiences leading to them in the autobiographical A Book of Silence. Maitland lectures part-time for Lancaster University's MA in Creative Writing and is a Fellow of St Chad's College, Durham University.

Maitland's 2003 collection of short stories, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother, is a fictional celebration of the menopausal woman, while the title story of 2008's Far North was originally published as "True North" in her first collection Telling Tales and was made into a film of the same title in 2007. The rest of Far North collects dark mythological tales from around the world.



  • Daughter of Jerusalem, 1978 (winner of Somerset Maugham Award 1979)
    • also published as The Languages of Love
  • Virgin Territory, 1984
  • Arky Types, 1987 (with Michelene Wandor)
  • Three Times Table, 1991
  • Home Truths, 1993
    • published as Ancestral Truths in the United States
  • Hagiographies, 1998
  • Brittle Joys, 1999

Short story collections[edit]

  • Telling Tales, 1983
  • A Book of Spells, 1987
  • Women Fly When Men Aren't Watching, 1992
  • Angel and Me (for Holy Week), 1996
  • On Becoming A Fairy Godmother, Maia, 2003
  • Far North & Other Dark Tales, 2008
  • Moss Witch, 2013


  • A Map of the New Country: Women and Christianity, 1983
  • Vesta Tilley, Virago, 1986
  • A Big-Enough God: Artful Theology, Mowbray, 1994
  • Virtuous Magic: Women Saints and Their Meanings (with Wendy Mulford), 1998
  • Novel Thoughts: Religious Fiction in Contemporary Culture, Erasmus Institute, 1999
  • Awesome God: Creation, Commitment and Joy, SPCK, 2002
  • The Write Guide (with Martin Goodman), New Writing North, 2007
  • Stations of the Cross (with Chris Gollon), 2009
  • A Book of Silence, Granta, 2008 (hardcover); 2009 (paperback)
  • Gossip from the Forest: the Tangled Roots of our Forests and Fairytales (ISBN 9781847084293), Granta, 2012
  • How to Be Alone, in The School of Life series (ISBN 9780230768086), Picador, 2014

As editor[edit]



  1. ^ Genealogies of Kentucky Families- From the Filson Club History Quarterly, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981, p. 419
  2. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry, 19th edition, vol. 1, The Kingdom of Scotland, ed. Peter Beauclerk Dewar, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2001, p. 884
  3. ^ Genealogies of Kentucky Families- From the Filson Club History Quarterly, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981, p. 419
  4. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th ed., vol. 1, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, p. 1219
  5. ^ Roberts, Michele (14 November 2008). "A Book of Silence, By Sara Maitland". The Independent (Review). Archived from the original on 11 June 2009.
  6. ^ Maitland, Sara; The Swans
  7. ^ Maitland, Sara (editor); Very Heaven: Looking Back at the 1960s; p. 5. ISBN 0-86068-958-1
  8. ^ Maitland; Very Heaven; p. 4.
  9. ^ Maitland; Very Heaven; p. 5.
  10. ^ Brenning, Jana
  11. ^ Hoffman, Matthew; "The Bill Clinton We Knew at Oxford: Apart from smoking dope (and not inhaling), what else did he learn over here? College friends share their memories with Matthew Hoffman"; in The Independent, 11 October 1992.
  12. ^ "Clinton's London Affair Just SAX"; in Los Angeles Times, 4 July 1993; p. 24.
  13. ^ "Is there a link between madness and creativity?", in The Independent on Sunday, 18 March 2007.
  14. ^ "Is there a link between madness and creativity?“
  15. ^ Brown, Andrew; "Church Group Reported for Sex Bias", in The Independent, 9 April 1993.
  16. ^ "About Sara". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012.
  17. ^ "Polly Lee" at IMDb.
  18. ^ "Adam Lee Photography".
  19. ^ Sara Maitland: A Very Unlikely Modern Hermit, The Independent.
  20. ^ "All quiet on the western front".

External links[edit]