Frances Hardinge

Portrait Frances Hardinge
© Ali Ghandtschi

Frances Hardinge was born in 1973 in Brighton and grew up in a large old house that inspired her to invent all sorts of whimsical stories even as a small child. She studied English at Somerville College at the University of Oxford, where she co-founded a writers’ workshop, and later worked at a software company. After winning a short story competition, her career as a writer took flight.
In her first children’s novel, »Fly by Night« (2005), she employs elements of the fantasy genre to explore the magic of language and the freedom of the spirit. The protagonist, Mosca, who lives in the Fractured Realm, an imaginary setting loosely based on 18th century England, is a clever twelve-year-old street girl who grows up in a land where books are rigorously controlled and censored. However, she inherits a passion for the world of words from her father, who was a disgraced writer. Mosca meets Clent, an old poet who enchants her so much that she rescues him from the stocks and then makes her escape from her bleak hamlet. He brings her and her companion, a goose, to the city of Mandelion, where Mosca hopes to continue learning. In the adventures to follow, Mosca’s wits and her ability to read are the skills that help her face all kinds of challenges. »Novels about reading and the power of language are susceptible to ending up as overloaded paper cadavers. Instead of going to bat for reading, the pleasure of reading this book comes from the ›mistress of words‹ herself« (»FAZ«). Hardinge’s début was followed by »Verdigris Deep« (2007), which is about three friends whose eerie story begins after they steal coins for the bus from a wishing well. After further books, among them »A Face Like Glass« (2012), »The Lie Tree« was published in 2015. The book is set in the Victorian age and tells the story of a girl who seeks to understand the mysterious death of her father while caught between the worlds of science and religion. Her most recent novel, »A Skinful of Shadows« (2017), which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year award, is set in 17th century England, where Makepeace grows up in poverty and without a father. After the death of her mother, she is taken in by her father’s wealthy family. Makepeace’s ability to see ghosts soon leads her to discover the family’s reason for taking her in and the dark secret they are hiding.
Hardinge won the 2006 Branford Boase Award and the 2015 Costa Book Award and has been shortlisted twice for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. The author lives in Isleworth in London.