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Michèle Roberts Biography

(1949– ), A Piece of the Night, The Visitation, The Wild Girl, The Book of Mrs Noah

British novelist, born in Bushey, Hertfordshire, educated at convent school and at Somerville College, Oxford. Her mother was a French Catholic and her father an English Protestant. Roberts's early novels, A Piece of the Night (1978) and The Visitation (1983), earned her a reputation as a leading feminist novelist. In The Wild Girl (1984) she turned to myth and archetype, a lasting preoccupation, to tell the story of Mary Magdalene. The novel, with its perspective reminiscent of the Gnostic Gospels, earned its author some censure from orthodox religious groups. In The Book of Mrs Noah (1987) Roberts combines her fascination with myth, both biblical and Greek, with a post-modernist zest of metatextual commentaries on the related arts of story-telling and textuality, feminizing these issues in a manner that parallels the literary/linguistic explorations of gender practised by her French contemporaries, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. Her interest in contemporary literary theory and her exuberant inventiveness are again evident in In the Red Kitchen (1990), an entertaining juxtaposition of Egyptian legend and Victorian charlatanism. Daughters of the House (1992), a critical and commercial success, revealed a new and simpler facet of Roberts's talent: based, in part, on a true incident, the novel relocates a reported sighting of the Virgin to the setting of the Second World War, and tells, in straightforward narrative, of the impact of these happenings on the lives and future fantasies of two young girls. During Mother's Absence (1993) collects stories which reveal her joy in richly textured depictions of sensuous pleasures. In Flesh and Blood (1994), a novel composed of cruel tales set in various centuries, she returns to the style and concerns of earlier fictions. Roberts's poems, which appeared in Touch Papers (1982; with Judith Kazantzis and Micheline Wandour), The Mirror of the Mother (1986), and Psyche and the Hurricane (1990), are included in All the Selves I Was: New and Selected Poems (1994).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Rhode to Jack [Morris] Rosenthal Biography