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Adam Thorpe (born 5 December 1956, Paris, France) is a British poet and novelist whose works also include short stories, translations, radio dramas and documentaries. He is a frequent contributor of reviews and articles to various newspapers, journals and magazines, including the Guardian, the Poetry Review and the Times Literary Supplement.

Adam Thorpe
Born (1956-12-05) 5 December 1956 (age 62)
Paris, France
Occupationnovelist, poet, playwright, translator, reviewer



Adam Thorpe was born in Paris and grew up in India, Cameroon and England. Graduating from Oxford's Magdalen College in 1979, he founded a touring theatre company, then settled in London to teach drama and English literature. He married Joanna Wistreich, an English teacher, in 1985; they had three children,[1] and they now live in France.

His writing has garnered recognition throughout his career, and has been translated into many languages. His first collection of poetry, Mornings in the Baltic (1988), was shortlisted that year for the Whitbread Poetry Award. His first novel, Ulverton (1992), an episodic work covering 350 years of English rural history, won critical acclaim worldwide, including that of the novelist John Fowles, who reviewed it in The Guardian as:

"...the most interesting first novel I have read these last years".[2]

The novel was awarded the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for 1992.

Karl Ove Knausgård, author of the internationally acclaimed bestseller My Struggle, stated during a reading in Washington DC that, "My favourite... English novel is by Adam Thorpe called Ulverton... a brilliant, very, very good and very unBritish novel... It's magic, a magic book."[3]

Hilary Mantel has recently written: "There is no contemporary I admire more than Adam Thorpe, whose novel Ulverton is a late twentieth century masterpiece."[4]

In 2007 Thorpe was shortlisted for prizes in three respective genres: the Forward Poetry Prize, the BBC National Short Story Award and the South Bank Show Award for the year's best novel (Between Each Breath). His novel Hodd (2009), a darker version of the Robin Hood legend in the form of a medieval document, was shortlisted for the inaugural Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2010. His sixth poetry collection, Voluntary (2012), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

His 2012 novel, the literary thriller Flight, was described by D. J. Taylor in the Guardian as confirming "a long-held impression that Thorpe is one of the most underrated writers on the planet."[5]

Thorpe started his career as an actor, and is the author of many BBC radio dramas starring, among others, Tara Fitzgerald, Sian Phillips and Patrick Malahide; his one-stage play, Couch Grass and Ribbon, written almost entirely in Berkshire dialect, was performed at the Watermill Theatre, Berkshire, in 1996.

Using period language, he has translated two great nineteenth-century French novels for Vintage Classics: Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Zola's Thérèse Raquin.[6]

His first work of non-fiction, On Silbury Hill, described by Paul Farley in the Guardian as "a rich and evocative book of place",[7] was Book of the Week on Radio 4 in August 2014.



  • Mornings in the Baltic (Secker and Warburg, 1988)
  • Meeting Montaigne (Secker, 1990)
  • From the Neanderthal (Cape, 1999)
  • Nine Lessons from the Dark (Cape, 2003)
  • Birds with a Broken Wing (Cape, 2007)[8]
  • Voluntary (Cape, 2012)


  • Ulverton (Secker, 1992; Vintage Classics, 2010)
  • Still (Secker, 1995)[9] Textual Cinema and Cinematic Text: The Ekphrasis of Movement in Adam Thorpe and Samuel Beckett by H Martin Puchner (New York).
  • Pieces of Light (Cape, 1998)
  • Nineteen Twenty-One (Cape, 2001)
  • No Telling (Cape, 2003)
  • The Rules of Perspective (Cape, 2005)[10] New York Observer review by Adam Begley: "It tickles the brain and batters the heart."
  • Between Each Breath (Cape, 2007)
  • The Standing Pool (Cape, 2008)
  • Hodd (Cape, 2009)
  • Flight (Cape, 2012)
  • Missing Fay (Cape, 2017)

Short story collectionsEdit

  • Shifts (Cape, 2000)
  • Is This the Way You Said? (Cape, 2006)[11] "In Is This The Way You Said? we see the perfection of deprecation, spurred by wit, watered by pity, fed by observation. It's marvellous..."



  • Madame Bovary (Vintage Classics, 2011)
  • Thérèse Raquin (Vintage Classics, 2013)[12]

Radio DramasEdit

  • The Fen Story (1991)
  • Offa's Daughter (1993)[13]
  • Couch Grass and Ribbon (1996)
  • An Envied Place (2002)
  • Nought Happens Twice Thus [2003]
  • Himmler's Boy (2004)[14]

Prizes and awardsEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Meritt Moseley, British novelists since 1960, Detroit, Gale Group, 2001, p. 268.
  2. ^ John Fowles, "Thank the Gods for Bloody Mindedness" (review of Ulverton), the Guardian, May 28, 1992, p. 25.
  3. ^ "Karl Ove Knausgaard Reads from "My Struggle: Book One" Webcast". Library of Congress. 7 August 2014 [event 2 May 2012]. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  4. ^ Guiducci, Mark. "5 of Vogue's Favorite Novelists Tell Us What They're Reading This Summer". Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  5. ^ Taylor, D. J. (4 May 2012). "Flight by Adam Thorpe – review". Retrieved 21 April 2017 – via The Guardian.
  6. ^ [1] "an unusual freshness"
  7. ^ Farley, Paul (17 July 2014). "On Silbury Hill review – 'a rich and evocative book of place'". Retrieved 21 April 2017 – via The Guardian.
  8. ^ [2] Review by Alison Brackenbury: "Adam Thorpe’s poems are grounded in a quiet of profound strength. They can also take flight. This is an admirable combination."
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ "Art Class in the Rubble- A War Novel Eyes Beauty". 20 March 2006. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Latitude 2014: Redefining the music festival". 11 July 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  12. ^ [4]"an unusual freshness".
  13. ^ [5] "a gripping psychodrama"
  14. ^ [6]"Every scene felt quietly real, for all the rush of social change and infinite cruelty just beyond it."
  15. ^ "Booker rivals clash again on Walter Scott prize shortlist", the Guardian, 2 Apr 2010

External linksEdit