Biographer Hilary Spurling was born in Stockport, England, in 1940. Educated at Somerville College, Oxford, she was arts editor, theatre critic and subsequently literary editor for The Spectator during the 1960s. She is a regular reviewer for The Observer and the Daily Telegraph. Her first book was a biography of the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett, published in two volumes in 1974 and 1984. She is also the author of a biography of the novelist Paul Scott and of the painter Henri Matisse, published in two volumes in 1998 and 2005. The latter volume, Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour 1909-1954 won the 2005 Whitbread Book of the Year Award. The Girl from the Fiction Department, is a portrait of Sonia Orwell, George Orwell’s wife and literary executor.