Sarah Dunant (born 8 August 1950) is a British novelist,
journalist, broadcaster and critic. She has two daughters and
London and Florence.
1 Early life
2 Broadcasting career
5 Personal life
10 External links
Dunant was born and grew up in London, the daughter of David Dunant, a
Welsh airline steward and later manager at British Airways, and his
French wife Estelle, who was brought up in Bangalore, India.
She was educated at the local girls grammar school, Godolphin and
Latymer. From there she won a place at Newnham College, Cambridge
where she read history and was involved in theatre and Footlights.
After graduation and a brief spell earning an
Equity Card in the
acting profession, she moved to Tokyo, where she was an English
teacher and nightclub hostess for six months, before travelling home
through South East Asia.
London she worked for two years at BBC Radio 4, producing its
then arts magazine Kaleidoscope, before travelling 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 *(1)
She went on to work extensively in radio and television, most notably
as a presenter of BBC2’s late night live arts programme The Late
Show in the 1990s and Night Waves, BBC Radio 3’s nightly cultural
She still contributes regularly to radio, and is an occasional
presenter for BBC Radio 4’s opinion slot ”A Point of View”.
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 story
telling, 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*2) 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
In 2000, an extended visit to
Florence changed her working life. In
what she acknowledged was something of a midlife crisis * 4 Her old
passion for history was reignited, a she started to research the
impact of the renaissance on the city in the 1490’s. The result was
The Birth of Venus, 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 (*5) allowed Dunant to devote herself
full time to writing and research concentrating of the most current
work being done in renaissance studies, most particularly concerning
the lives of women. (*6) 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 history of the Borgia family,
seeking to separate the colourful historical truth from the smear and
gossip that built up during their lives, and in history after their
deaths. (*7) It has made her a passionate advocate for better
historical accuracy in popular TV series like “The Borgias.” (*8)
As a journalist she has reviewed for all of the Uk’s papers, edited
two books of Essays on Political Correctness and Millennium 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. (8*)
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. (*9)
She is an accredited lecturer for NADFAS the UK arts charity, which
promotes education and appreciation of fine arts.
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.
She is married with two grown up daughters and divides her time
London and Italy.
In her journalism and public speaking she is an unrepentant liberal
baby boomer, feminist and an advocate for legalisation of Marijuana
*10 and *11) A Catholic by birth she has also written about the
importance of religion in history and the need for Catholicism to
reform itself. (*12)
Exterminating Angels (co-written with Peter Busby as Peter Dunant),
Intensive Care (co-written with Peter Busby as Peter Dunant), 1986
Snow Storms in a Hot Climate, 1988
The War of the Words: The Political Correctness Debate, 1994
Under My Skin, 1995
The Age of Anxiety, 1997
Mapping the Edge, 1999
The Birth of Venus, 2003
In the Company of the Courtesan, 2006
Sacred Hearts, 2009
Blood and Beauty, 2013
In the Name of the Family, 2017
1993 Silver Dagger Award, for Crime Fiction, winner, Fatlands[citation
2010 Walter Scott Prize, for historical fiction, shortlist, Sacred
^ a b Smith, Dinitia (20 April 2004). "A Tale Born of Voices Echoing
on Ancient Walls". The New York Times. Dunant, 53
^ a b Stanford, Peter (31 March 2006). "Sarah Dunant: Renaissance
woman". The Independent. Dunant, 55
^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian Media. 8 Aug 2014.
p. 39. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Dunant, Sarah. "About". Sarah Dunant.
^ Flood, Alison (2 April 2010). "Booker rivals clash again on Walter
Scott prize shortlist". The Guardian.
1.Evening Standard 1999. Independent March13th Profile by Peter
2. Interview Weekend Times November 29, 1997
3. Mail on Sunday 18 May 1997. Guardian 27 May 1997.
Sarah Dunant The
Observer 1 June 1997. Joan Smith Sunday Times 8 June 1997. Evening
Standard 27th Jan 2003. Good shock, bad shock.
4. New York Times article: Dinita Smith 2004.
5. Sunday Times 2004. BBC BOOK Club.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06pdlgb. Aitken Alexander Associates
Literary Agency for further details
6. Janet Maslin, reviews In the company of the Courtesan. New York
Times March 2006
7.New York Times: Poison Incest. Intrigue The Borgias. Review 2013.
8. Sarah Dunant.com. Blog on Borgias.
The Independent Martin Rowson Cartoon. Profile in Independent 31
March 2006( Peter Stanford)
10. “If the past is Another Country” Friday June 2, 2010 The
11. BBC Radio 4 Point of View. Tribute to Teachers.
11. A POINT OF VIEW http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06py0lp
12. A POINT OF VIEW http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06pdlgb
Transcript of interview with Ramona Koval, The Book Show, ABC Radio
National, 15 April 2007
Sarah Dunant at British Council: Literature
Sarah Dunant interview from Open2.net
Listen to an audio slideshow interview with
Sarah Dunant talking about
Sacred Hearts on The Interview Online
Sarah is a Fellow on the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes
ISNI: 0000 0001 1076 1071
BNF: cb12150012n (d