Jane Gardam is one of the most famous natives of Coatham, having been born in the town on
11th July 1928 – and still very much
alive as I write. Gardam is known for her works of both children’s and adult
fiction, and also pops up occasionally in The
Spectator and The Telegraph as
well as penning works for radio.
She was born as Jean Mary Pearson and educated at
for Girls and, subsequently, at the Saltburn High
School where she read English.
In 1951, she worked as a librarian, travelling between hospitals; then took up
editorial posts at, firstly, Weldon
Ladies Journal (1952) and Time and
Tide (1952-4). After her marriage to David Gardam in 1954, she dedicated
her time almost exclusively to raising her three children, enduring lengthy and
often difficult absences by her husband who was working abroad. She didn’t take
up writing in earnest until the late 1960s University
From 1971, the published works began to appear – for both children and adults, as well as short stories. Her first adult novel was God on the Rocks in 1978, which enjoyed great critical acclaim. She won two Whitbread Awards (The Hollow Land and The Queen of the Tambourine, in 1981 and 1991, respectively), together with a host of other honours and nominations (including a Booker Prize shortlisting for God on the Rocks). She was appointed an OBE in 2009, and currently lives between her homes in the south-east and
Fittingly, her one non-fiction work is the appropriately-named The Iron Coast (1994), recalling the days of her youth in and around Coatham.
In case you don’t know what she looks like, try here – though she’s a good deal older now.