Somerville English: Writers

Somerville has always attracted budding writers.

Somerville novelists and poets

Famous women novelists who studied at Somerville include Dorothy L. Sayers, Vera Brittain, Winifred Holtby, Rose Macaulay, Margaret Kennedy, Iris Murdoch, Margaret Forster, A. S. Byatt, Joan Aikin Hodge, Michelle Roberts, Francesca Kay and Kate Williams. The poet Elma Mitchell was an undergraduate here in 1938-1941.

In 2019, two recent graduates of Somerville English have been in the literary spotlight for their outstanding debuts in fiction and drama: Elizabeth Macneal’s first novel The Doll Factory was published by Picador in May 2019, while Ella Road’s debut play The Phlebotomist transferred to the main stage at The Hampstead Theatre and was nominated in both the 2019 Olivier Awards and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Children’s literature

Many of the leading writers of Children’s literature are graduates of Somerville, from Constance Savery, Nina Bawden and Lucy M. Boston to Gillian Cross and Susan Cooper and, more recently, Matthew Skelton and Frances Hardinge.

We hope to keep adding lots of new writers (including a few more men) to the list.

Acclaim for Somerville writers

Some prize-winning books by Somerville writers:

  • Rose Macaulay, Towers of Trebizond (James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1956)
  • Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince (James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1973)
  • —, The Sea, The Sea (The Booker Prize, 1978)
  • — (Golden PEN award, 1997)
  • Lucy M. Boston, A Stranger at Green Knowe (Carnegie Medal, 1961)
  • A. S. Byatt, Possession (The Booker Prize, 1990)
  • —, The Children’s Book (James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 2009)
  • Nina Bawden, The Peppermint Pig (Guardian Prize, 1976)
  • Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore (The Booker Prize, 1979)
  • Gillian Cross, Wolf (Carnegie Medal, 1990)
  • —, The Great Elephant Chase (Whitbread Children’s Prize, 1992)
  • Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising (Newbery Honor, 1974)
  • —, The Grey King (Newbery Medal, 1976)
  • Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree (Costa Prize, 2016)

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