Antonia Susan Drabble was the first child born to lawyer John Frederick and his homemaker wife Kathleen Marie Bloor. The couple had received a Cambridge education and remained avid readers, encouraging their children’s intellectual pursuits. A. S. Byatt (BI-uht) and her sister, Margaret Drabble, both rewarded their parents with prominent literary careers.
Like her parents, Byatt began her studies at Cambridge, where she graduated with honors in 1957. She then pursued postgraduate work at Bryn Mawr College in the United States for a year before returning to England to begin her doctoral studies in early English literature at Oxford. However, her marriage to Ian Charles Rayner Byatt in 1959 forced her to abandon the traditional path to an academic degree, since married women were not permitted to hold scholarships.
To satisfy her intellectual interests, Byatt began teaching part time while maintaining her household and giving birth to two children, Antonia and Charles. She also continued writing fiction, a habit she had begun while a university student, despite pressure from her professors to focus on criticism to the exclusion of more creative endeavors.
The two novels she started while at Cambridge and Bryn Mawr were soon to be published as Shadow of a Sun (1964; also known as The Shadow of the Sun, 1993) and The Game (1967). Between the two, she produced a collection of critical essays, Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch (1965), an extended study of Murdoch’s work. Iris Murdoch remains a major influence on Byatt’s...
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