Hickman, Katie 1960-

views updated

HICKMAN, Katie 1960-

(Katie Lucy Hickman)

PERSONAL: Born December 6, 1960, in Wellington, New Zealand; daughter of John Kyrle (a diplomat and author) and Jennifer Olive (Love) Hickman; married Tom Owen-Edmunds (a photographer), October 17, 1987 (marriage ended); married A. C. Grayling; children: Luke Lovell David. Education: Pembroke College, Oxford, B.A. (with honors), 1982, M.A., 1987. Politics: "Not affiliated." Religion: Church of England.

ADDRESSES: Home—The Coach House, Talycoed Court, near Monmouth, Gwent NP5 4HR, Wales. Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow & Co., 10 East 53rd St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Freelance writer, 1982–.

MEMBER: Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.

AWARDS, HONORS: Book of the Year recognition, London Independent, 1993, for A Trip to the Light Fantastic.


Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon: A Journey to Bhutan, Gollancz (London, England), 1987.

The Quetzal Summer, Sceptre (Sevenoaks, England), 1993.

A Trip to the Light Fantastic: Travels with a Mexican Circus, Flamingo (London, England), 1994.

Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Courtesans: Money, Sex, and Fame in the Nineteenth Century, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Vogue, Brides, Woman's Journal, London Sunday Times, Independent, and Manchester Guardian.

SIDELIGHTS: Katie Hickman draws on her own years of experience as the daughter of diplomats to explore both the hardships and triumphs of diplomatic spouses in Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives. She had an unprecedented opportunity to watch all aspects of her mother's life as a diplomatic spouse during a twenty-eight-year career that crossed and re-crossed the world. Hickman looks at various aspects of the life of the diplomatic wife, including the details of getting to their assignments, maintaining their private lives, dealing with constant social demands, raising their children, enduring privation, and more. In addition, she tells of Mary Sheil, who found herself practically a prisoner in the luxurious British residence in 1849 Tehran. In another example, Harriet Granville, wife of a British diplomat in Paris, expended most of her effort attending diplomatic ceremonies and related functions. Miss Tully, who was posted to Tripoli in 1784, suffered from the effects of famine and pestilence.

Diplomatic wives were not immune to the very real physical dangers of their husbands' posts, and revolution or other violent situations could engulf them as easily as any other British representative. Library Journal critic Shauna Rutherford called the book "scholarly but eminently readable," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer considered it "an enormously entertaining social history of the female side of diplomatic life." "The accounts that these wives offer are more than small anecdotal tales of domesticity," commented Tamsin Todd in the New Statesman, adding that "they are an integral part of the history of diplomacy itself."

Courtesans: Money, Sex, and Fame in the Nineteenth Century includes detailed biographical information on five of the best-known courtesans of the nineteenth century. While it is true that courtesans accepted large amounts of money in exchange for sexual favors, these women were not prostitutes or mistresses. Instead, they occupied a rarified status as part of the demimonde, an unusual, shadow subculture of women who lived on the fringes of respectable society. Courtesans were often a symbol of luxury for many of the era's richest and most influential men; in most cases, only the richest men could afford to keep their company, as the courtesans expected to be lavished with gifts and cash. Courtesans lived lives of unprecedented freedom, unburdened by the restrictions placed by society on wives or the social impediments placed on prostitutes. Living by their beauty, their wit, charm, and intelligence, courtesans consorted with artists, business leaders, and kings, and reaped the rewards of their talents. They lived as the celebrities of their day and were written about in newspapers, gossiped about in parlors, and envied in many households. "Whether you are temperamentally for or against the idea of courtesans, Katie Hickman's bold and lively book could hardly fail to make you appreciate the British variety's particular allure," suggested Salley Vickers in Spectator. Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan commented that "these fascinating life stories provide a provocative slice of social history."

Hickman once told CA: "As the daughter of British diplomats, I was born and brought up outside my native country, in Europe, the Far East, and South America. The influence of travel on my life and in my choice of subject matter as a writer has been profound. It was travel that first inspired me to write professionally. I am particularly fascinated by people's physical and spiritual connections to the land they inhabit, whether it is their native place or an adopted, foreign one.

"I wanted to go to Bhutan because it represents the last really remote, unknown country in the world—a place that is still locked in a cultural tradition largely unchanged since the Middle Ages and where the trappings of twentieth-century life have yet to penetrate. My husband spent six years trying to find a way in, and, when we met our (eventual) host in Bhutan, our journey took a further year to set up. Writing a book about it was a natural culmination of several years of writing travel articles; I always hoped to start writing books, and this proved the perfect project.

"Since Bhutan opened her doors, very cautiously, to foreigners in 1974—after three hundred years of isolation—there have been changes. Bhutan will continue to change, albeit very slowly, and I worked to record the country in its untouched, mysterious state. Many travelers (actually, there have been very few) call it a Shangri-la. I would not go so far as this, but I do believe that the Bhutanese have a quality of life, a kind of gentleness and tranquility about them, that we in the West have lost. They are learning much from us, but what interested me most is what we can learn from them.

"Our journey was unique in that we gained permission to travel to the very furthest eastern border of the country, which has been done very few times before by foreigners. We went to places where no white people had ever set foot and where the people in some cases did not even know of the existence of foreigners. In the twentieth century this must be very rare!"



Booklist, June 1, 2001, Jay Freeman, review of Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives, p. 1806; December 1, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of Courtesans: Money, Sex, and Fame in the Nineteenth Century, p. 632.

Bookseller, June 13, 2003, Benedicte Page, "Life as a Luxury Good: Katie Hickman Explores the Risks and the Rewards of the Career of the Courtesan," p. 27.

Commonweal, June 15, 2001, Elizabeth Shannon, review of Daughters of Britannia, p. 28.

Contemporary Review, January, 2004, review of Courtesans, p. 60.

Economist, October 25, 2003, "Tales of the Demi-Monde: Courtesans," review of Courtesans, p. 76.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2001, review of Daughters of Britannia, p. 723.

Library Journal, June 15, 2001, Shauna Rutherford, review of Daughters of Britannia, p. 86; March 1, 2003, Ravi Shenoy, review of Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon: A Journey to Bhutan, p. 108.

M2 Best Books, August 14, 2003, "Author Explores the Stories of Five Courtesans," review of Courtesans.

New Statesman, May 24, 1999, Tamsin Todd, review of Daughters of Britannia, p. 47; August 18, 2003, Edwina Currie, "Made for Love," review of Courtesans, p. 35.

Publishers Weekly, May 21, 2001, review of Daughters of Britannia, p. 96; November 24, 2003, review of Courtesans, p. 55.

Spectator, August 16, 2003, Salley Vickers, "A Fate Far Better than Death," review of Courtesans, p. 46.

Times Literary Supplement, January 8, 1988, John Ure, review of Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon, p. 43.


HarperCollins Web site, http://www.harpercollins.com/ (September 17, 2005), "Katie Hickman."

About this article

Hickman, Katie 1960-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article