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Alice Thomas Ellis, pseudonym of Anna Margaret Haycraft Biography

(1932–2005), pseudonym of Anna Margaret Haycraft, The Sin Eater, The Birds of the Air

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Dutchman to Paul Engle Biography

British novelist, born in Liverpool, educated at Bangor Grammar School and Liverpool School of Art. The landscapes of North Wales, where she grew up, form the background to many of her short, poignant, and witty novels, the first of which was The Sin Eater (1977). Roman Catholicism, to which she is a convert, is an important influence on her vision, as is a strong sense of tragedy, which invariably leavens the fierce comedy that characterizes her fiction. Other novels include The Birds of the Air (1980), The 27th Kingdom (1982), The Other Side of the Fire (1983), and Unexplained Laughter (1985). Among her more celebrated works is the trilogy composed of The Clothes in the Wardrobe (1987), The Skeleton in the Cupboard (1988), and The Fly in the Ointment (1989); the latter, with its exotic and eccentric characters, including an anti-heroine who comes from Egypt, and its antics of infidelity and domestic betrayal, was filmed as The Summerhouse for television. The Inn at the Edge of the World (1990), with its island locale and allusions to Celtic myth, veers into the territory of fable. In Pillars of Gold (1992) Ellis explores, with customary wit, the urban anonymity and the unwholesomeness of life in the Britain of the 1990s. The Evening of Adam (1994) is a collection of short stories. Her ‘Home Life’ columns appear regularly in the Spectator.

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