Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. One of the first female students at Oxford University she studied at Somerville College and after graduating she went on to work at the BBC during World War II. She later worked at Italia Conti and in a Suffolk bookshop. Her literary career began in 1975, at the age of 58, with the publication of a biography of Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, followed two years later by The Knox Brothers, a joint biography of her father (Edmund Knox) and uncles.
In 1977 she published her first novel, The Golden Child. Over the next five years Fitzgerald published five further novels, including The Bookshop which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1978. The following year her novel Offshore won the prize. Two of her later novels, The Beginning of Spring (1988) and The Gate of Angels (1990), were also shortlisted for the Booker prize. Her final novel, The Blue Flower (1995) was selected as ‘Book of the Year’ nineteen times and won America’s National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1999 Fitzgerald was awarded the Golden Pen Award by English Pen for a “a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature”. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.