Amanda Craig

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Amanda Craig (born 1959) is a British novelist, critic and journalist. She was a recipient of the Catherine Pakenham Award.


Early life

Born in South Africa, Craig grew up in Italy before moving to London. Her parents were British journalist, author and UN Press Officer Dennis Craig; and South African journalist Zelda Wolhuter, who left Johannesburg following the Sharpeville Massacre and the rise of apartheid. Craig studied at Bedales School and read English Literature at Clare College, Cambridge. After graduation, she worked briefly in advertising for J. Walter Thompson and Terence Conran before becoming a journalist and novelist.



For ten years, she was the children's books critic for The Times . She has contributed to The Observer , The Guardian , the New Statesman and BBC Radio 4. As a journalist, Craig won the British Press Awards 1995 Young Journalist of the Year and the 1997 Catherine Pakenham Award. She worked on the staff of Tatler and the Sunday Express before becoming a freelance feature writer, literary critic and columnist for The Daily Telegraph , The Sunday Times , the Daily Mail , The Independent , and The Observer. She had judged numerous literary prizes including the Whitbread Novel Award in 2005, the Booktrust Teen Book Award in 2008, and the 2018 Wingate Prize. [1] Craig was dropped as a judge for the Mslexia Fiction & Memoir Competition by women’s writing magazine Mslexia in September 2020 after she signed a letter to The Times condemning online abuse of J.K. Rowling. [2] [3]


Craig has written a cycle of eight interconnected novels dealing with contemporary British society, often in an expansive, dramatic and satirical manner that has made her a leading proponent of the social novel. Her multi-stranded approach to writing fiction has been compared to that of Anthony Trollope, Honoré de Balzac and Charles Dickens. [4]

Her 1996 novel A Vicious Circle was originally contracted to be published by Hamish Hamilton, but was cancelled when its proof copy received a libel threat from David Sexton, literary editor of the Evening Standard and former boyfriend of Craig's at Cambridge, fifteen years previously. [5] The novel was promptly bought by Fourth Estate and published three months later. A Vicious Circle was praised by the critic A.N. Wilson in the Evening Standard as "A love story and political comment, a defence of the art of fiction, a masterpiece."

Although each novel can be read separately, they are linked to each other by common characters and themes, thus constituting a novel sequence. Craig has been cited as a state-of-the-nation novelist by Sameer Rahim in Prospect and by The Sunday Times . [6] Usually, Craig takes a minor character and makes him or her the protagonist of her next work. She has been praised by A.N. Wilson as "the greatest novelist under fifty" and by Allison Pearson in The Sunday Telegraph , [7] saying "she has everything you look for in a major writer: wit, indignation, an ear for the telling phrase and an unflagging attention to all the individual choices by which we define ourselves – where we stand as a society and how we decline and fall."

Craig's fourth novel, In a Dark Wood , concerned the interplay between fairy-tales and manic depression, and her fifth, Love in Idleness , updates Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream , setting the story in a holiday villa near Cortona, Italy. Her sixth novel, Hearts and Minds , concerned with the lives of legal and illegal immigrants in London, was longlisted for the 2009 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

Her seventh novel, The Lie of the Land (2017), concerned with a London professional couple who can't afford to divorce and move to Devon to a rented house which has been the scene of a murder, was cited as "in the vanguard of the Brexit novel" by Danuta Kean in The Guardian . [8] It was praised by Henry Hitchings in the Financial Times , [9] who commented: "It seems strange that none of Craig's books have been adapted for TV, and the medium is one to which The Lie of the Land would be well suited. An enjoyable, sharp-witted and at times knowingly melodramatic novel, it lives up to the promise of its title – diagnosing the state of the nation without becoming grandiose, and debunking a few quaint myths about the patterns and textures of rural life." It was BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime in August 2017. The Guardian chose it as one of the 2017 Books of the Year, [10] as did The Irish Times, [11] The Financial Times, [12] The Observer, [13] and The Telegraph. [14]

Craig has set two of her novels, A Private Place and The Lie of the Land , in Devon, a county that she has compared to C. S. Lewis's Narnia. [15] In an interview with Jackie McGlone of The Glasgow Herald Craig described how encountering the poverty of North Devon shocked her. [16] Her eighth novel, The Golden Rule was published in 2020 and was widely acclaimed as a "wry comedy-cum-thriller reimagining of Patricia Highsmith Strangers on a Train and Beauty and the Beast", [17] with Craig's skill as a "State of the Nation novelist" depicting a "starkly divided" Britain noted in addition to "offering comfort and wit, compassion and philosophical speculation." [18] The Golden Rule was long-listed for the 2021 Women's Priz for fiction.

Craig is particularly interested in fairy-tales and children's fiction, and was one of the first critics to praise J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Cressida Cowell, Stephenie Meyer, Anthony Horowitz, Malorie Blackman and Suzanne Collins. [19]

Following her struggle to get A Vicious Circle published, she became an active campaigner with International PEN for the reform of UK libel laws. [20]

In an opinion piece in The Independent , Craig asked why fiction remains obsessed by historical fiction and neglects the contemporary, [21] saying she has "set out to take the DNA of a Victorian novel – its spirit of realism, its strong plot, its cast of characters who are not passively shaped by circumstances but who rise to challenges or escape them." She has said in interviews that she considers writing contemporary fiction to be "a moral duty".


Craig's short stories have been published in Good Housekeeping , The Mail on Sunday , the Sunday Express , the New Statesman and collections such as Valentine's Day Duckworth and Good Housekeeping Great Escapes in support of Childline.

In 2011, she contributed the short story "Red Berries" to an anthology supporting the Woodland Trust. The anthology, Why Willows Weep, [22] has so far helped the Woodland Trust plant approximately 50,000 trees, and was re-released in paperback format in 2016. In 2017 she contributed the short story "Metamorphosis 2" about a celebrity inspired by Katie Hopkins who transforms into a gigantic cockroach to the anthology A Country of Refuge supporting refugees.

Personal life

Craig is married to British economist Rob Cohen, with whom she has two children. She lives in London and Devon.



Book reviews

YearReview articleWork(s) reviewed
2020Craig, Amanda (3–23 April 2020). "A time for heroes : the best new children's books". The Critics. Books. New Statesman. 149 (5514): 75.
  • Davies, Kate. The incredible hotel. Francis Lincoln.
  • McGough, Roger & Mini Grey. Money-go-round. Walker Books.
  • Farooki, Roopa. A cure for crime. Oxford UP.
  • Hoghton, Anna. The mask of Aribella. Chicken House.
  • Penfold, Nicola. Where the world turns. Stripes.
  • Murray, Struan. Orphans of the tide. Puffin.
  • Fountain, Ele. Lost. Pushkin Press.
  • Abdel-Magied, Yassmin. You must be Layla. Penguin.
  • MacKenzie, Ross. Evernight. Andersen Press.
  • Horowitz, Anthony. Nightshade. Walker.

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  1. Sugarman, Daniel (15 June 2017), "JQ Wingate book prize judges named", The Jewish Chronicle .
  2. Cowdrey, Catherine (September 30, 2020). Craig asked to step down as Myslexia judge after signing Rowling support letter. The Bookseller .
  3. Mslexia Twitter (Sept 30, 2020)
  4. "Weaving web of intrigue and hope" Western Morning News , 2 May 2009. [ dead link ]
  5. "A 'Vicious' Roman a Clef", The New York Times , 1 December 1996.
  6. Angelini, Francesca (11 June 2017). "Books: The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig". The Times.
  7. Pearson, Allison (10 July 2017). "Can a novelist heal the divides of Brexit Britain? Step forward, Amanda Craig". The Telegraph.
  8. Kean, Danuta (9 January 2017). "Vanguard of Brexit fiction set to appear in 2017". The Guardian.
  10. Jordan, Justine (30 November 2017). "The best fiction of 2017". The Guardian.
  11. "Fiction, history, humour, emotion: The best books of 2017".
  12. Rose, Rebecca (1 December 2017). "Best books of 2017: Fiction". Financial Times.
  13. Preston, Alex (3 December 2017). "Alex Preston's best fiction of 2017". The Guardian.
  14. Pearson, Allison (10 December 2017). "Books to give this Christmas to harassed mum, non-reading nephew, fulminating uncle – and 13 other headscratchers". The Telegraph.
  15. Craig, Amanda (22 July 2017). "'Devon is a heaven of beauty and inspiration and a hell of damp and dullness' – Amanda Craig". The Guardian.
  16. McGlone, Jackie (16 June 2017), "Review: The Lie of the Land, by Amanda Craig", The Herald.
  17. Ross-Southall, Review by Mika. "The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig review — Strangers on a Train in Cornwall".
  18. //
  19. "Authors unite behind Times children's book reviewer". London Evening Standard. 28 November 2013. p. 16.
  20. Craig, Amanda (27 June 2012). "Libel laws: I could still be sued and lose everything". The Telegraph.
  21. Craig, Amanda (13 April 2009). "Stuck in the past: Why is modern literature obsessed with history?". The Independent.
  22. Archived 17 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine