novelist and poet, born in Hertfordshire, educated at Somerville College, Oxford. A leading literary writer of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s, she was poetry editor of the feminist magazine Spare Rib (1975–7). Her first novel, A Piece of the Night (1978), introduced themes that were to inform her later work: the heroine, French‐born but English convent‐educated, meditates on her French childhood, her Oxford experiences, marriage and motherhood, female friendship, and her struggle for independence. Subsequent novels include The Wild Girl (1984); The Book of Mrs Noah (1987), set partly in Venice and partly on a surreal voyage in a Women's Ark, where women writers create their own dream environment; In the Red Kitchen (1990); Daughters of the House (1992); The Mistressclass (2003); and Reader, I Married Him (2005). Other works include During Mother's Absence (1993, short stories); All the Selves I Was: New and Selected Poems (1995); Flesh and Blood (1994), a series of parodistic, highly coloured erotic‐historical stories; and Impossible Saints (1997), inspired in part by the life of St Teresa of Avila. Both her poetry and her prose are distinguished by a warm, sensuous richness, and a use of classical and biblical legend.