Gristwood, Sarah

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Gristwood, Sarah


Born in Kent, England; married Derek Malcolm (a film critic). Education: Attended St. Anne's College, Oxford.


Home—London, England; Kent, England. Agent—Araminta Whitley, LAW (Lucas Alexander Whitley LTD), 14 Vernon St., London W14 0RJ, England.


Writer and journalist.


Recording Angels: The Secret World of Women's Diaries, Harrap (London, England), 1988.

Arbella: England's Lost Queen, Bantam (New York, NY), 2003.

Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic, Bantam Books (London, England), 2005.

Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.

Bird of Paradise: The Colourful Career of the First Mrs Robinson, Bantam Books (London, England), 2007.

Also author of In this Book and The Lost One, both Transworld Publishers Limited. Contributor to periodicals, including London Times, London Guardian, and London Evening Standard.


Sarah Gristwood attended Oxford University, after which she went to work as a journalist specializing in women's issues and the arts. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including the London-based Guardian, Independent, Times, and Evening Standard. In Arbella: England's Lost Queen, Gristwood chronicles the life of Arbella Stuart, grandmother of both Beth of Hardwick and Queen Elizabeth I, the niece of Mary Queen of Scots, and a former consideration for the throne in her own right. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the book "an intriguing, scholarly look at the short, sad life of Arbella." In her book, Gristwood tracks her subject's activities through Queen Elizabeth's lifetime, and also after her death, when Arbella sought to advance her status. Jane Ridley, in a review for Spectator, remarked that "Gristwood succeeds triumphantly not only in bringing alive the dead politics of the Jacobean court, but also in making vivid bricks with very little straw—the evidence on Arbella is patchy to say the least. This is an enthralling account of an extraordinary life." A Publishers Weekly contributor, noting that Gristwood is sometimes forced to elaborate a bit more than might have been appropriate, given the scarcity of facts available, wrote that "she fully supports the contention that contemporaries took very seriously this now obscure young woman's pretensions to the throne."

In her next book, Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic, the author chronicles the life of Mary Robinson, known as Perdita, who went from debtors prison to being the mistress of England's King George IV to writing best-selling novels and diaries. In her biography of Perdita, Gristwood paints a portrait of a woman who may at one time have been a blackmailer and who ended up acting on stage and later becoming a renowned nineteenth-century feminist thinker. "Gristwood's own account is very readable, but there is an opacity at the heart of Mary Robinson which is very difficult to penetrate," noted Suzi Feay in a review for the London Independent. Spectator contributor Sarah Burton noted that the author is "strong on analysis of [Perdita's] work, both from a critical and a biographical perspective."

Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics, examines the relationship between Elizabeth Tudor and the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley. Although, historically, Leicester has been depicted as a weak underling to Elizabeth's powerful personality, Gristwood sets out to revise this image, showing that Leicester had definite political beliefs and was man known as a warrior and patriot. He was also a philanthropist and a man interested in the science of his day. In addition to analyzing how the relationship between Elizabeth and Leicester affected Elizabeth's reign as Queen, Gristwood explores the possibility that Elizabeth had Leicester's wife murdered and that Leicester's son, Arthur Dudley, was the illegitimate son of the duo. "This vigorous, valuable and richly detailed study sheds welcome light on the psyche of a great stateswoman," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Francis Wilson, writing in the London Telegraph, commented: "In Elizabeth & Leicester, rather than retelling the tale we all know so well, Sarah Gristwood disentangles the many myths and stories that have, since the start of Elizabeth's reign, been spun around the lifelong love and loyalty between the queen and her ‘Sweet Robin.’"



Booklist, April 15, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of Arbella: England's Lost Queen, p. 1427; October 1, 2007, Brad Hooper, review of Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics, p. 18.

Bookseller, October 18, 2002, Benedicte Page, "The Story of a Contender: Sarah Gristwood Reveals the Surprising Tale of Arbella Stuart, the Woman Who Believed She Could Succeed Elizabeth I to the Throne," review of Arbella, p. 28.

Boston Globe, February 7, 2008, Judith Maas, "Getting a Read on the Consummate Elizabethan Love Story," review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Entertainment Weekly, December 21, 2007, Tina Jordan, review of Elizabeth & Leicester, p. 83.

Guardian (London, England), January 29, 2005, Frances Wilson, "There's Something about Mary," includes review of Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic; May 31, 2008, Sue Arnold, "The Uncoy Mistress," includes review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

History Today, May, 2003, "Elizabethan Era: Elizabeth's London," p. 71; May, 2004, Robert Pearce, review of Arbella, p. 86; April, 2007, "Affairs of State: For Her Latest Book, Historical Biographer Sarah Gristwood Has Turned to the Story of Elizabeth I and Leicester. Here She Discusses Some of the Risks and Pleasures of Writing about Such a Well-known Relationship, a Process That She Found Unexpectedly Fascinating," interview with author, p. 70.

Independent (London, England), January 30, 2005, Suzi Feay, review of Perdita; February 25, 2007, Marianne Brace, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005, review of Arbella, p. 399; August 15, 2007, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Library Journal, November 1, 2007, Tonya Briggs, review of Elizabeth & Leicester, p. 81.

London Daily Mail, January 26, 2007, Val Hennessy, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Publishers Weekly, April 18, 2005, review of Arbella, p. 54; September 3, 2007, review of Elizabeth & Leicester, p. 49.

Spectator, February 22, 2003, Jane Ridley, "The Stuart We Fail to Remember," review of Arbella, p. 38; January 22, 2005, Sarah Burton, "Famous for Being Famous," review of Perdita, p. 37.

Telegraph (London, England), February 8, 2007, Caroline McGinn, review of Bird of Paradise: The Colourful Career of the First Mrs Robinson; April 2, 2007, Frances Wilson, "The Virgin Queen and Her Sweet Robin," review of Elizabeth & Leicester.


Biographers Club, (July 28, 2008), Araminta Whitley, "Sarah Gristwood."

BookLoons, (July 28, 2008), Tim Davis, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Guardian Online, (September 20, 2005), "Sarah Gristwood."

Hagsharlotsheroines, (September 13, 2007), Marian Jane Williams, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Historical Fiction, (May 8, 2008), review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Romance Reviews Today, (July 28, 2008), Jani Brooks, "A Perfect 10," review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Round Table Reviews, (July 28, 2008), Deb Fowler, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Suite, (April 23, 2008), Erin Britton, review of Elizabeth & Leicester.

Sunday Herald Web site, (July 28, 2008), Lesley McDowell, "The Power of Courtly Love," review of Elizabeth & Leicester.