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Sarah Dunant (born 8 August 1950)[3][4] is a British novelist, journalist, broadcaster, and critic.[2][1] She is married with two daughters, and lives in London and Florence.

Sarah Dunant
Born (1950-08-08) 8 August 1950 (age 68)[1][2]
London, England
Occupation Writer, broadcaster, critic


Early lifeEdit

Dunant was born and bred in London. Her parents were David Dunant, a Welsh airline steward who later became manager of British Airways, and his French wife Estelle, who grew up in Bangalore, India.

She went to Godolphin and Latymer, a local girl's grammar school. She studied history at Newnham College, Cambridge, and was involved in theatre and Footlights. After she had graduated and earned an Equity Card in the acting profession, she moved to Tokyo, Japan, where she worked as an English teacher and nightclub hostess for six months, before returning home through South East Asia.

Broadcasting careerEdit

In 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.[5]

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 discussion programme.

She 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 storytelling, 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[6] 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 popular culture".[7]

In 2000, an extended visit to Florence changed her working life. In what she acknowledged was something of a midlife crisis,[8] her old passion for history was reignited, and she started to research the impact of the Renaissance on the city in the 1490s. 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[9][10] allowed Dunant to devote herself full time to writing and research, concentrating on the most current work being done in Renaissance studies, most particularly concerning the lives of women.[11] 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 the 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[10]. It has made her a passionate advocate for better historical accuracy in popular TV series like The Borgias.[12]

As a journalist she has reviewed for many UK newspapers, edited two books of essays on Political Correctness and millennial 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.[12]

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.[13]

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.


In her journalism and public speaking, she is a baby boomer, feminist, and an advocate for legalisation of marijuana[14][15]. A Catholic by birth, she has also written about the importance of religion in history and the need for Catholicism to reform itself[9].


  • Exterminating Angels (co-written with Peter Busby as Peter Dunant), 1984
  • Intensive Care (co-written with Peter Busby as Peter Dunant), 1986
  • Snow Storms in a Hot Climate, 1988
  • Birthmarks, 1991
  • Fatlands, 1993
  • The War of the Words: The Political Correctness Debate, 1994
  • Under My Skin, 1995
  • The Age of Anxiety, 1997
  • Transgressions, 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



  1. ^ a b Smith, Dinitia (20 April 2004). "A Tale Born of Voices Echoing on Ancient Walls". The New York Times. Dunant, 53 
  2. ^ a b Stanford, Peter (31 March 2006). "Sarah Dunant: Renaissance woman". The Independent. Dunant, 55 
  3. ^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian Media. 8 Aug 2014. p. 39. 
  4. ^ Dunant, Sarah. "About". Sarah Dunant. 
  5. ^ Evening Standard 1999. Independent March13th Profile by Peter Stanford. 2006[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Interview Weekend Times November 29, 1997[full citation needed]
  7. ^ 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[full citation needed]
  8. ^ New York Times article: Dinita Smith 2004.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ a b "Sarah Dunant: Crisis in Catholicism, A Point of View - BBC Radio 4". BBC. 
  10. ^ a b Schillinger, Liesl (2013-07-05). "'Blood and Beauty: The Borgias,' by Sarah Dunant". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  11. ^ Janet Maslin, reviews In the company of the Courtesan. New York Times March 2006[full citation needed]
  12. ^ a b Sarah Blog on Borgias.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ The Independent Martin Rowson Cartoon. Profile in Independent 31 March 2006( Peter Stanford)[full citation needed]
  14. ^ “If the past is Another Country” Friday June 2, 2010 The Times.[full citation needed]
  15. ^ "From Pot to Profit, A Point of View - BBC Radio 4". BBC. 
  16. ^ Flood, Alison (2 April 2010). "Booker rivals clash again on Walter Scott prize shortlist". The Guardian. 

External linksEdit