The Hyacinth Girl: TS Eliot's Hidden Muse

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…a rare work of sympathy and insight. Lyndall Gordon's ability to see both complexity and simplicity in the relationship between Eliot and Hale means that their entangled world comes fully alive in this brilliant book
Colm Tóibín
"It is a tale of betrayal on a grand scale, and it is very well told... Gordon's account is as exciting as a detective story"
Margaret Drabble
"There is no finer guide into the mind of T. S. Eliot than Lyndall Gordon... Thanks to her meticulous research and inspired storytelling we will never read [Eliot's] poems the same way again"
Heather Clark, author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
Longlisted for the 2023 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Outsiders: Five Women Writers who changed the world

Virago and Johns Hopkins

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Outsiders tells the stories of five novelists: Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf. We have long known their greatness, but by linking their lives as outsiders to their imaginative lives, this group biography looks afresh at their genius and, at the same time, their evolving alternative to the mess the dominant group has made of our world: a turn to women’s history of non-violence, nurture and listening..

Finalist, Prose Award by the American Association of Publishers

"Woolf once said that the role of biography is to give us 'the fertile fact' of a life, and this is what Ms. Gordon…is so good at supplying here. All five of these women believed that their status as outsiders―pariahs, even―was worth the creative freedom it gave them."
Elizabeth Lowry, The Wall Street Journal
" Gordon is a natural storyteller, and the lives stir us and fascinate us no matter how well we already know them . . . full of novelistic insight, pushing into the biographical material to substantiate her hunches, tracing patterns and repetitions in these writers' emotional lives and in their work."
Tessa Hadley, Guardian

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Spanish translation from Alba in Barcelona

front cover of Outsiders: Five Women Writers who changed the world: Chinese language edition

Chinese translation from Shanghai Literature and Art

Italian translation coming from Fazi

Divided Lives


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Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter. A daughter, in childhood, is called on to be the secret sharer of her mother’s illness and creativity. Here are kin who are alike as readers and dreamers, whose dreams will take them different ways.

'A biographer with soul, she reaches into the hearts of those she brings alive for us. She makes the meaning of their lives sing and sweat as she invites us into their experiences, their longings, their struggles and their disappointments. [A] fascinating mix between memoir and biography'
Susie Orbach, The Observer
"Prose both lyrical and meticulous... beautiful"
Juliet Nicolson, Evening Standard
Enthralling and painful
Elizabeth Lowry Times Literary Supplement
"A wonderful read that's somehow both frank and delicate at the same time."
Herald, Scotland

long-listed for the Alan Paton prize and the Warwick prize for writing

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds

Virago and Penguin, NY

Short-listed for the Duff Cooper Prize and one of three biographies short-listed for Italy’s Comisso Prize.

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This story approaches Emily Dickinson by way of feuds in her family, beginning in the poet's lifetime. The feuds exploded over adultery, but came to focus on the poet herself. Rival camps claimed her legend and shot each other down over the course of three generations.

"unforcedly and powerfully original"
Caroline Moore, Sunday Telegraph
"this story of the terrible fascination Dickinson exerted on her heirs is as rich as a novel by Henry James. ...Perhaps for the first time since Dickinson’s death, [this book] invites us to meet the poet head-on"
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph
"makes you read Dickinson again with polished eyes"
Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday
"takes the lid off the violent emotional life of the Dickinson family and its far-reaching effects on the poet's work... an entirely new reading of Dickinson's life with this brilliant tale of turbulence both on and off the page, a situation as intricate as any in the novels of Henry James, where the greatest force lies in what is hidden"
Claire Harman, Literary Review
‘it's a scorcher… everything about it makes me want to sing’
literary blogger Dovegreyreader
"gives Emily Dickinson the startling clarity of one of her own poems"
Frances Wilson, Sunday Times

Italian translation: Come un fucile carico: La vita di Emily Dickinson

Also available in Turkish translation from Alfa

Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft

Virago and Harper, NY

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The founder of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was the most famous woman of her era, whose Vindication of the Rights of Woman influenced political thinking in Europe and newborn America. She saw herself as ‘a new genus’ of womanhood, and her adventurous life tested her strikingly modern notions of education, work, love and friendship. This biography is a vindication of a courageous woman whose reputation has suffered over the years, and follows the reverberations of her interrupted life in the lives of four followers in the next generation, including her daughter, Mary Shelley.

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Long-listed for the Samuel Johnson prize.
  • Selected by the New York Times as one of its 100 notable books of the year.
  • Selected by the New York Public Library as one of their 25 books of the year.
'This great biography is a biography of a time, a spirit, a way of thinking, that is brave, intelligent, independent and unless we are all soon for the dark, immortal.'
Candia McWilliam, Herald
"Wonderful and deeply sobering... relates Wollstonecraft's story with the same potent mixture of passion and reason her subject personified."
New York Times Book Review
"... gently edging towards a new genus of biography. Its characteristics include an intense attempt to recover a subject's inner life, using imaginative empathy yet never stepping over the line to fiction, and an inclusion of the subject's afterlife, in children, memory, and imitation. Fascinating."
Timothy Garton Ash, 'A little night reading', Sunday Times

Henry James: His Women and His Art

Virago (revised)

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"All Jamesians will want to read Lyndall Gordon, for the breadth of her knowledge and sympathies, for the way she makes us think again about Henry James."
Claire Tomalin
"Gordon is superbly interesting about James as an artist...The best single book about him."
Colm Tóibín
"Wonderfully full-blooded...A brilliant idea...superbly enjoyable material, much of it unfamiliar, all of it stimulating"
Philip Horne, Guardian
"Imaginative and risky...A magnificent, important book"
Kathryn Hughes, Literary Review

Four novelists - David Lodge, Colm Toibin, Emma Tennant, and Melissa Jones - drew on this story of two women and Henry James, as does Michael Gorra's Portrait of a Novel.

The Death Mask

on looking into the life of Henry James. Edited by Mark Bostridge.

front cover of Lives for sale: Biographers Tales, edited by Mark Bostridge.

Charlotte Brontë: a Passionate Life

Virago (revised)

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'It would take a great deal to crush me.' Breaking with Brontë legend -- the slave to duty in the shadow of tombstones -- A Passionate Life reveals instead a fiery woman who shaped her own life and transformed it into art. How did she arrive at her understanding of passion from a woman's point of view? What did she gain from her feminist friend, Mary Taylor; from her demanding mentor, Monsieur Heger, and from her rising young publisher, George Smith? Could she adapt to a seemingly incongruous marriage? Among Victorians who liked women self-effacing, she preferred 'to walk invisible', hiding her 'natural home character'. Here is the real Charlotte Brontë: tart, ardent, and veering away from pathos, a survivor who turns loss to gain.

  • Cheltenham prize for literature

BBC3: 'Yours sincerely, Charlotte Bronte’

New Statesman - Reader, I stalked him: on Charlotte Brontë in her bicentenary year
"A magnificent biography, focusing on the gaps and silences in CB's emotionally turbulent life. This is ... the best thing to be written about CB yet."
Fiona MacCarthy, Observer
"...those who know little of the Brontës will find it riveting; for those who know more, it is compulsive."
Elizabeth Jane Howard, Harper's & Queen
"I found LG's portraits of [George] Smith and his mother ... as vivid and masterly as Charlotte's own... convincing and deeply interesting about the last phase of Charlotte's life, her marriage."
Jane Gardam, Spectator
"I've read nothing his year that has excited me as much... an inspired and unconventional biographer"
Joan Smith, Independent on Sunday

Charlotte Brontë: Una vita appassionata

Shared Lives


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The story of a group of girls who grew up in Cape Town in the fifties. They were shaped by South Africa's past, the absurdities of a girls' school, and pressures to marry at an early age. At the centre of the group was Romy, the exuberant daughter of Jewish immigrants. We follow Romy's rebellious course and horror of weddings, Ellie's struggle with loneliness in her career as psychologist, and Rose's disappearance into marriage and motherhood. Three obscure women who died young and left nothing but their stories, letters, and memories, are brought to life.

"Here are the youthful dreams we all share, the follies and passionate connections, the interleaving of experience that brings us to some further truth"
Jane Dunn, Observer
"The Schlegel sisters of E.M.Forster's Howard's End would have admired...this rich, moving and witty book; her excavations of the past...really do enlighten us about the present."
Nora Sayre, New York Times Book Review
"a riveting autobiographical memoir... It is the empathy and originality of that book which make her so suitable to write about the Brontës."
Nuala OFaolain, Image (Ireland)

Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life

Virago (revised)
Spanish translation from Gatopardo
Chinese translation from Shanghai Literature and Art
Translation into Turkish is available.

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This biography, substantially revised, sees Virginia Woolf as she saw herself. The first to set out the private life behind the well-known facts of her public career, A Writer's Life moves back and forth between memories and art to reveal an explorer of the 'infinite oddity of the human position'. Instead of the doom-and-death often imposed on women of genius, here is the robust walker and seeker for what was fertile in her intimacies, in women's nature, and in resistance to power. This edition brings out her ideas for biography itself: to fall on a life 'like a roll of heavy waters... laying bare the pebbles on the shore of the soul'.

  • James Tait Black prize for biography
"a masterpiece of the kind of intuitive biography in which Virginia Woolf herself believed."
Times Higher Educational Supplement
"one of the most accomplished literary biographers of this generation"
British Book News
'sensitive and original'
Hermione Lee, TLS
"brave in its imaginative interpretations... has given us in this work what is essential to the biography of any writer: an analysis of those experiences about which they are silent."
Carolyn Heilbrun, New York Times Book Review

The Imperfect Life of T.S.Eliot

Virago (revised)

Amalgamates Eliot's Early Years and Eliot's New Life together with new material gathered over thirty years.

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Chinese translation from Shanghai Literature & Art

Eliot once spoke of a lifetime burning in every moment. He had the mind to conceive a perfect life, and he also had the honesty to admit that he could not meet it. This biography explores the divide between saint and sinner in the greatest poet of the twentieth century. The aim is to view Eliot from the vantage point of the twenty-first century, with a keener sense of his strangeness, his prejudice, and extremism, not to reduce Eliot to the level of others in his extremist century, but to follow the trials of a searcher whose flaws and doubts speak to all of us whose lives are imperfect

  • British Academy's Rose Mary Crawshay Prize; Southern Arts prize
  • Selected by the New York Public Library as one of 25 'Books to Remember' from 2000.
  • Selected by the Independent on Sunday as one of the '30 best biographies of the twentieth century'.
"The most valuable single book yet published about Eliot"
Jonathan Raban, Sunday Times
""...a model of its kind: authoritative, meticulously documented, sensitive alike to poetic and spiritual nuances."
Times Educational Supplement
"...a subtle portrait of Eliot as a Jamesian hero torn between memory and desire, worldly happiness and a more rarefied world of the spirit."
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"daring strong, and psychologically brilliant"
Cynthia Ozick, New Yorker