Maggie Gee, UK author, 67 today
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Maggie Mary Gee OBE FRSL (born 1948) is an English novelist. She was born in Poole, Dorset, then moved to the Midlands and later to Sussex. She was educated at state schools and at Somerville College, Oxford (MA, B Litt). She later worked in publishing and then had a research post at Wolverhampton Polytechnic where she completed a doctorate in the twentieth-century novel in 1980. In 2012 she became a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.
Gee was one of six women among the 20 writers on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list in 1983, which she recalls as “a very good time for fiction”. She has written eleven novels and a collection of short stories, and was the first female Chair of the Royal Society of Literature, 2004–2008. She is now one of the Vice-Presidents of the RSL, Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University and Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University where she shares an office with Professor Fay Weldon. She has also served on theSociety of Authors‘ management committee and the government’s Public Lending Right committee. Her seventh novel, The White Family, was shortlisted for the 2003 Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
She writes in a broadly modernist tradition, in that her books have a strong overall sense of pattern and meaning, but her writing is characterised by political and social awareness. She turns a satirical eye on contemporary society but is affectionate towards her characters and has an unironised sense of the beauty of the natural world. Her human beings are biological as well as social creatures, partly because of the influence of science and in particular evolutionary biologyon her thinking. Where Are the Snows, The Ice People and The Flood have all dealt with the near or distant future. She writes through male characters as often as she does through female characters.
The individual human concerns that her stories address include the difficulties of resolving the conflict between total unselfishness, which often leads to secret unhappiness and resentment against the beneficiaries, and selfishness, which can lead to the unhappiness of others, particularly of children. This is a typical quandary of late-20th and early-21st-century women, but it is also a concern for privileged, wealthy, long-lived western human beings as a whole, and widens into global concerns about wealth and poverty and climate change. Her books also explore how the human species relates to non-human animals and to the natural world as a whole. Two of her books, The White Family and My Cleaner, have had racism as a central theme, dealt with as a tragedy in The White Family but as a comedy in My Cleaner. In 2009 she published My Driver, a second novel with many of the same characters as My Cleaner, but this time set in Uganda during a time of tension with neighbouring DR Congo.
Gee’s memoir, My Animal Life, was published in 2010.
Maggie Gee lives in London with her husband, the writer and broadcaster Nicholas Rankin, author of Dead Man’s Chest: Travels after Robert Louis Stevenson,Telegram from Guernica: The Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent, and Churchill’s Wizards, and their daughter Rosa.
Gee was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to literature.