Sarah Dunant

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Sarah Dunant
Born (1950-08-08) 8 August 1950 (age 68)[1][2]
London, England
OccupationWriter, broadcaster, critic

Sarah Dunant (born 8 August 1950)[3][4] is a British novelist, journalist, broadcaster, and critic.[2][1] She is married with two daughters, and lives in London and Florence.

Early life[edit]

Dunant was born in 1950 and raised in London.[5] She is the daughter of David Dunant, a former Welsh airline steward who later became manager of British Airways,[6] and his French wife Estelle, who grew up in Bangalore, India.

She went to Godolphin and Latymer, a local girl's grammar school.[5] She then studied history at Newnham College, Cambridge,[6] where she was involved in the amateur theatrical club Footlights. After she graduated, she earned an actor's equity card and moved to Tokyo, Japan. In Tokyo, she worked as an English teacher and nightclub hostess for six months, before returning home through South East Asia.[6]

Broadcasting career[edit]

She worked at BBC Radio 4 for two years in London,[5] producing its then arts magazine Kaleidoscope,[6] before traveling again, this time overland through North, Central and South America, a trip that became research material for her first solo novel Snow Storms in Hot Climate (1988), a thriller about the early cocaine trade in Colombia.[7]

She went on to work extensively in radio and television, most notably as a presenter of BBC2’s late night live arts program, The Late Show in the 1990s[6] and Night Waves, BBC Radio 3’s nightly cultural discussion program.

She contributes regularly to radio, and is an occasional presenter for BBC Radio 4’s opinion slot "Point of View".[8]


Dunant started writing in her late twenties, first with a friend, with whom she produced two political thrillers and a six-part BBC1 drama series Thin Air, broadcast in 1989, before going solo.

Her eleven subsequent novels have explored two genres: contemporary thrillers and historical fiction. What unites the two is her decision to use avowedly popular forms, characterised by compelling storytelling, as a way to explore serious subject matter and reach large audiences. This has included (though not exclusively) a passionate commitment to feminism and the role of women inside history.

In the 1990s, she wrote a trilogy around a British female private eye Hannah Wolfe, spotlighting issues like surrogacy, cosmetic surgery, animal rights, and violence to women. Sexual violence was also at the centre of "Transgressions" (based on a mysterious series of incidents happening in her house[9] which tackled what might happen if a woman woke to an intruder in her house and live to tell the tale. The resulting furore over the actions of the heroine "caused the book to become a cause celebre which triggered a debate about rape and popular culture".[10]

In 2000, an extended visit to Florence changed her working life. In what she acknowledged was something of a midlife crisis,[11] her old passion for history was reignited, and she started to research the impact of the Renaissance on the city in the 1490s. The result was The Birth of Venus[12], the first of a trilogy of novels about women’s lives in the Italian Renaissance. The commercial success of these books in America and elsewhere[13][14] allowed Dunant to devote herself full time to writing and research, concentrating on the most current work being done in Renaissance studies, most particularly concerning the lives of women.[15] The novel Sacred Hearts, a story of nuns in an enclosed convent in 16th Ferrara, led to collaboration with the early music group, Musica Secreta: a theatrical adaptation using the music of the period and with a choir, performed in churches and at early music festivals around Britain.

Since then, she has been working on the history of the Borgia family, seeking to separate the colorful historical truth from the smear and gossip that built up during their lives, and in history after their deaths[14]. It has made her a passionate advocate for better historical accuracy in popular TV series like The Borgias.[16]

As a journalist she has reviewed for many UK newspapers, edited two books of essays on Political Correctness and millennial anxieties, and currently reviews for the New York Times.


Her crime novels were three times shortlisted for the CWA Golden dagger award, and in 1994 she won a silver dagger for Fatlands.[16]

In 2010 Sacred Hearts was shortlisted for the first ever Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize, an award which highlighted the growing power and popularity of the form.[17][18]

She is an accredited lecturer for NADFAS the UK arts charity, which promotes education and appreciation of fine arts.[19]

In 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters from Oxford Brookes University, where she is a guest lecturer on the Creative writing M.A. course.[20]


In her journalism and public speaking, she is a baby boomer, feminist, and an advocate for legalisation of marijuana.[21][22] A Catholic by birth, she has also written about the importance of religion in history and the need for Catholicism to reform itself.[13]


  • Exterminating Angels (co-written with Peter Busby as Peter Dunant), 1983. London, David & Charles. ISBN 9780233975900[23]
  • Intensive Care (co-written with Peter Busby as Peter Dunant), 1986. London, Andre Deutsch. ISBN 978-0233978208[24]
  • Snow Storms in a Hot Climate, 1988. New Yor, Random House. ISBN 978-0394570181[25]
  • Birth Marks, 1992. New York, Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385423182[26]
  • Fatlands, 1993. New York, Penzler Books. ISBN 978-1883402822[27]
  • The War of the Words: The Political Correctness Debate, 1995. London, Virago Press.ISBN 978-1853818349[28]
  • Under My Skin, 1995. New York, Scribner Book Co. ISBN 978-0684815213[29]
  • The Age of Anxiety, 1996. London, Virago Press. (with Ray Porter) ISBN 978-1860492136[30]
  • Transgressions, 1997. New York, HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0060392482[31]
  • Mapping the Edge, 1999. New York, Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-50323-8[32]
  • The Birth of Venus, 2003. New York, Random House.ISBN 978-1400060733[33]
  • In the Company of the Courtesan, 2006. London, Virago Press. ISBN 978-1844080106[34]
  • Sacred Hearts, 2009. New York, Random House. ISBN 978-1400063826[35]
  • Blood and Beauty, 2013. London, Virago Press. ISBN 978-1844087426[36]
  • In the Name of the Family, 2017. London, Virago Press. ISBN 978-1844087464[37]



  1. ^ a b Smith, Dinitia (20 April 2004). "A Tale Born of Voices Echoing on Ancient Walls". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 5 May 2018. Retrieved 20 February 2017. Dunant, 53
  2. ^ a b Stanford, Peter (31 March 2006). "Sarah Dunant: Renaissance woman". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2017. Dunant, 55
  3. ^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian Media. 8 Aug 2014. p. 39. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ Dunant, Sarah. "About". Sarah Dunant. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Sarah Dunant". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Butler, Robert (2 October 1994). "Show People / The queen of cultural chat: Sarah Dunant". Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  7. ^ Evening Standard 1999. Independent March13th Profile by Peter Stanford. 2006[full citation needed]
  8. ^ "A Point of View". Archived from the original on 14 December 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  9. ^ Interview Weekend Times November 29, 1997[full citation needed]
  10. ^ Horeck, Tanya (2000). "'More Intimate Than Violence': Sexual Violation in Sarah Dunant's Transgressions". Women: A Cultural Review. 11 (3): 262–272. doi:10.1080/09574040010003124.
  11. ^ New York Times article: Dinita Smith 2004.[full citation needed]
  12. ^ Smith, Dinitia (20 April 2004). "A Tale Born of Voices Echoing on Ancient Walls". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 June 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Sarah Dunant: Crisis in Catholicism, A Point of View - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Archived from the original on 14 December 2015.
  14. ^ a b Schillinger, Liesl (5 July 2013). "'Blood and Beauty: The Borgias,' by Sarah Dunant". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 4 August 2017.
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (2006-03-05). "In the Company of the Courtesan". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  16. ^ a b Sarah Blog on Borgias.[full citation needed]
  17. ^ Lea, Richard (2010-06-21). "Hilary Mantel wins Walter Scott historical fiction prize for Wolf Hall". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  18. ^ The Independent Martin Rowson Cartoon. Profile in Independent 31 March 2006( Peter Stanford)[full citation needed]
  19. ^ Dunant, Sarah (2016-06-07). About the Author - Fatlands - Sarah Dunant. ISBN 9781504035064. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  20. ^ "Exceptional role models: 2016 Honorary Graduates are announced". Archived from the original on 30 May 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  21. ^ “If the past is Another Country” Friday June 2, 2010 The Times.[full citation needed]
  22. ^ "From Pot to Profit, A Point of View - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Exterminating Angels". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  24. ^ Intensive Care. ISBN 978-0233978208.
  25. ^ "Snowstorms in a Hot Climate". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  26. ^ "Birth Marks". Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Fatlands". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  28. ^ Dunant, Sarah; Porter, Roy (1996). The Age of Anxiety. ISBN 9781860492136. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  29. ^ "Under My Skin". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  30. ^ Dunant, Sarah; Porter, Roy (1996). The Age of Anxiety. ISBN 9781860492136. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  31. ^ Transgressions. ASIN 0060392487.
  32. ^ "Mapping the Edge". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  33. ^ The Birth of Venus. ASIN 1400060737.
  34. ^ In the Company of the Courtesan. ISBN 978-1844080106.
  35. ^ Sacred Hearts. ASIN 1400063825.
  36. ^ Blood and Beauty. ASIN 1844087425.
  37. ^ In the Name ofthe Family. ASIN 1844087468.
  38. ^ "Dagger Awards Winner Fatlands". Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  39. ^ Flood, Alison (2 April 2010). "Booker rivals clash again on Walter Scott prize shortlist". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016.

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