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Penelope Gilliatt Biography

(1932–93), Observer, New Yorker, Unholy Fools, Three Quarter Face, One By One, A State of Change

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain

British novelist and short-story writer, born in London, educated at Queen's College. She worked at the Institute of Pacific Relations in New York before beginning her long career as a distinguished film critic with the Observer and the New Yorker, her criticism is collected in Unholy Fools (1971) and Three Quarter Face (1980). Her first novel, One By One (1965), gained wide notice for its wittily pessimistic evocation of a plague in modern London. The seriocomic element is common to all her fiction, as is her economy of style and acute social observation, notably of middle-class mores. A State of Change (1967), which concerns a Polish girl's displacement in London after the Second World War, was followed by The Cutting Edge (1978), a remarkable treatment of the emotional bond between two brothers in very different circumstances, Mortal Matters (1983), an ironic comparison of the values of succeeding generations, and A Woman of Singular Occupation (1988), a disquieting love-story set in Istanbul on the eve of the First World War. Her numerous collections of short stories include What's It Like Out? (1968), Splendid Lives (1977), 22 Stories (1986), and Lingo (1990). Gilliatt also wrote several plays and the highly acclaimed screenplay for Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). She was married to John Osborne (196368).

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