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Claire Tomalin


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Claire Tomalin is one of the leading lights of English letters — a known master of biography, and erstwhile literary editor of New Statesman and Sunday Times. As an editor, she has assembled and collaborated with a who’s who of English writers, including Julian Barnes, Clive James, Martin Amis, Hilary Spurling, John Carey and Paul Theroux. She shares a home and a marriage with playwright, novelist and fellow English literary icon Michael Frayn.

Tomalin’s insightful, award-winning biographies portray subjects such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen, Katherine Mansfield and Mary Wollstonecraft. Of her subjects, she explains that they each ‘started with a struggle and none had privileged backgrounds’.

‘Why I write biographies and why people read them is to get inside someone else’s skin,’ she has said. ‘One life is not enough.’

Yet part of her skill as a biographer is to identify fragments of her own experience — with its own struggles and disappointments — to enrich and deepen her portraits of others. Her career as a writer and editor has been punctuated and propelled by distinct turning points: the loss of her first husband and two of her children, the birth of her youngest child with spina bifida — as well as career peaks at the New Statesman and Sunday Times, awards for her books, her romance with and marriage to Frayn, and rigorous relationships with her first-class literary peers.

In one rare night at the Wheeler Centre, one of world literature’s most accomplished biographers will discuss the joys and struggles of her own life and work, in conversation with Toni Jordan.


Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin has worked in publishing and journalism all her life, becoming literary editor at the New Statesman and then The Sunday Times. Her many books have included The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, which won the Whitbread Award for First Book in 1974,&nb... Read more

Toni Jordan

Toni Jordan is the author of six novels including the international best-seller Addition, Nine Days, which was awarded Best Fiction at the 2012 Indie Awards, and Our Tiny, Useless Hearts (2016), which was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and for the Voss Literary Award. Toni ho... Read more


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