Katie Hickman is the author of eight books, including two best selling works of nonfiction, Daughters of Britannia, and Courtesans, and a best-selling novel, The Aviary Gate.
Katie Hickman was born into a diplomatic family, and had a peripatetic childhood, growing up in Spain, Ireland, Singapore and South America. She was educated in England and read English at Pembroke College, Oxford, after which she started to travel and to write.
Her first book was a travel book, Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon (Victor Gollancz, 1987), the account of a three month journey by horse across Bhutan, which was followed by a novel, The Quetzal Summer (Hodder & Stoughton, 1992) a story about love and death in the Andes, which was short-listed for the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year award. Her third book, A Trip to the Light Fantastic (HarperCollins, 1993; republished by Bloomsbury in 2014 as Travels with a Mexican Circus), is an account of a year spent living and working with a small family-run circus in Mexico. It was short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and became one of the Independent’s Books of the Year.
After starting a family, she turned to writing non-fiction. Daughters of Britannia (HarperCollins, 1999), an account of the lives and times of women married to British Diplomats, from the seventeenth century to the present day, was published to great critical acclaim in 1999. The paperback became an instant bestseller, reaching no 2 in the Sunday Times lists, and remaining in the top 10 for five months. It was adapted by Katie into a twenty part series for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and has now sold 250,000 copies. Daughters was followed by Courtesans (HarperCollins, 2003), the story of English eighteenth and nineteenth century courtesans, was also a bestseller. It has sold 90,000 copies to date.
Katie Hickman has spent the last ten years working on a trilogy of historical novels set in seventeenth century Constantinople, Venice, London and rural Wiltshire. The first of these, The Aviary Gate (Bloomsbury, 2008), became a bestseller in Italy, selling more than 50,000 copies in hardback alone. The Pindar Diamond (Bloomsbury, 2011) followed. Between them they have been translated into 20 languages. The third and concluding novel, The House on Bishopsgate, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2016. Katie Hickman is a judge on this year’s Dolman Standford’s prize for Travel Writing, and is included in the OUP Guide to Women Travellers, Wayward Women.
She lives in London with her two children.
THE HOUSE AT BISHOPGATE – Buy it here.
From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes a haunting, magical story set in 17th century London, perfect for fans of Jessie Burton and Elif Shafak
1611. Celia Lamprey looks out across the rooftops of Aleppo for the last time. After ten years living in the Orient, she and her husband, Paul Pindar, are setting sail for England – taking with them the legendary diamond, the Sultan’s Blue, despite the curse that surrounds it.
They arrive to find a country much changed; Bishopsgate, once surrounded by fields, is now a muddy thoroughfare choked with carriages – from which carpenters, gardeners and footmen descend, summoned to restore Pindar’s great house to its former splendour. But all is not as it seems. Celia is frail, and the marriage childless. Between the couple lies a great, unspoken darkness. Now, as they await the arrival of Celia’s friend Annetta from Venice, another woman, the alluring widow Frances Sydenham, becomes increasingly indispensable to the running of the household – and the happiness of its inhabitants.
But who is this strange woman, and what are her real motives?
Vividly evoking Jacobean society, The House at Bishopsgate is a sumptuous, richly woven story of marital secrets and sexual jealousy, from a master of historical fiction.
PUBLICATION DATE: 9th February 2017
TRAVELS WITH A MEXICAN CIRCUS – Buy it here.
Katie Hickman went to Mexico looking for magic. She found it in the circus – Big Top, clowns, elephants and all – where cheap, torn materials and tarnished sequins are transformed into nights of glittering illusion. Gradually adjusting to the harsh ways of the circus’s nomadic lifestyle, she soon became absorbed into this hypnotic new world, at first as a foreigner but later as ‘La Gringa Estrella’, a performer in her own right.
Travels with a Mexican Circus is an unforgettable account of a year-long journey through an extraordinary and bizarrely beautiful country.
PUBLICATION DATE: 28 August 2014
COURTESANS – Buy it here.
During the course of the 18th- and 19th-century a small group of women rose from impoverished obscurity to positions of great power, independence and wealth. In doing so they took control of their lives – and those of other people – and made the world do their will.
Men ruined themselves in desperate attempts to gain and retain a courtesan’s favours, but she was always courted for far more than sex. In an age in which women were generally not well educated she was often unusually literate and literary, courted for her conversation as well as her physical company. Courtesans were extremely accomplished, and exerted a powerful influence as leaders of fashion and society. They were not received at Court, but inhabited their own parallel world – the demi-monde – complete with its own hierarchies, etiquette and protocol. They were queens of fashion, linguists, musicians, accomplished at political intrigue and, of course, possessors of great erotic gifts. Even to be seen in public with one of the great courtesans was a much-envied achievement.
In ‘Courtesans’ Katie Hickman, author of the bestselling ‘Daughters of Britannia’, focuses on the exceptional stories of five outstanding women. Sophia Baddeley, Elizabeth Armistead, Harriette Wilson, Cora Pearl and Catherine Walters may have had very different personalities and talents, but their lives exemplify the dazzling existence of the courtesan.
‘Irresistible…history at its most human. Elegant and addictively readable.’ – William Dalrymple
PUBLISHER: Harper Perennial
PUBLICATION DATE: 18 March 2011
DREAMS OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON – Buy it here.
Bhutan is a remote kingdom in the Himalayas, isolated from the outside world for three centuries. The western part has been opened to limited tourism, but the eastern part remains closed. Katie Hickman is one of only a handful of foreigners ever to penetrate these eastern lands. Her trip to Bhutan with photographer Tom Owen Edmunds took a year to set up. They journeyed from the capital Thimphu in the west to the easternmost borderlands and the remote mountain-top retreat of the barbarous Bragpa people. They lived as Bhutanese, and met merchants, abbots, wandering priests, lamas, hermits, a reincarnation of the Buddha and a sorceress. Katie Hickman’s account contains all the unexpected and humorous aspects of travel, but, above all, it is about the people of Bhutan.
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 1989
DAUGHTERS OF BRITANNIA – Buy it here.
An authoritative and entertaining account by one of our most talented writers of the courageous and unusual women who have been the backbone of the British Empire and foreign service.
‘English ambassadresses are usually on the dotty side and leaving their embassies drives them completely off their rockers’ – Nancy Mitford
From the first exploratory expeditions into foreign lands, through the heyday of the British Empire and still today, the foreign service has been shaped and run behind the scenes by the wives of ambassadors and minor civil servants. Accompanying their spouses in the most extraordinary, tough, sometimes terrifying circumstances, they have struggled to bring their civilization with them. Their stories – from ambassadresses downwards – never before told, are a feast of eccentricity, genuine hardship and genuine heroism, and make for a hilarious, compelling and fascinating book.
PUBLICATION DATE: 8th July 2011
THE AVIARY GATE – Buy it here.
Elizabeth Stavely sits in the Bodleian Library, her hands trembling as she holds a fragment of parchment, the key to a story untold for four hundred years Constantinople 1599: the English merchant Paul Pindar must deliver an extraordinary gift to the Sultan. Grieving for his lost love, drowned in a shipwreck, he hears rumours of a new golden-haired slave in the Sultan’s harem. Could this be his Celia?
PUBLICATION DATE: 2nd February 2009
THE PINDAR DIAMOND – Buy it here.
Venice, 1604. When rumours of a rare and priceless diamond begin to circulate amongst the gamblers and courtesans of the Venetian demi-monde, the Levant Company merchant Paul Pindar becomes convinced that the jewel is linked to the fate of his former love, Celia Lamprey. As his obsession with the mysterious stone grows it becomes clear that there are other, more sinister forces at play. Is the diamond real, or is it just a trick to lure him to his ruin?
PUBLICATION DATE: 21 March 2011