Helen Dunmore Winner of the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction dies

Helen Dunmore Winner of the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction dies

8 June 2017

Helen Dunmore, the highly acclaimed poet, novelist and children’s writer has died at the age of 64. She started her literary career writing poetry and published her first collection, The Apple Fall, in 1983. She also wrote short stories before her first novel, Zennor in Darkness, was published in 1993 when she was 40. In 1996 she was awarded the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction for A Spell of Winter, the story of two siblings abandoned to the care of their grandfather at his country house in Norfolk just before the First World War. 

One of her bestselling books was The Siege which was nominated for the Whitbread Prize in 2001, and the Bailey’s Prize in 2002. It describes the terrible depravations endured by two couples during the Siege of Leningrad in 1941 and was considered by Richard Overy ,reviewing in the Sunday Telegraph, as being “Literary writing of the highest order set against a background of suffering so intimately reconstructed it is hard to believe that Dunmore was not there”. Two of her other novels have also been nominated for prestigious awards – House of Orphans for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in 2006 and The Betrayal, the sequel to The Siege, for the Man Booker Prize in 2010.

Her passion for writing fiction around historical events can also be seen in The Greatcoat, a ghost story written for Hammer and set in the aftermath of the Second World War, and The Lie set in the years following World War 1.

Dunmore’s final novel Birdcage Walk, described as a psychological thriller set in Bristol at the time of the French Revolution, was published in March 2017 only weeks before her death. Speaking about her illness on Radio 4’s Open Book she said “One of the things that does please me is that my grandchildren will get to know me … through reading my books.”

You can borrow the following Helen Dunmore books for the Calibre Library: The Siege (6Anchor023), The Betrayal (9155), House of Orphans (7433), The Greatcoat  (9589), and The Lie (10456). We also have the Ingo Chronicles for younger readers: Ingo (616523), The Tide Knot  (616948), The Deep (616947), The Crossing of Ingo (616946), and Stormswept (617144).


Denise James

Photo credit: Penguin Random House