Penelope Knox Fitzgerald was born into a literary family on December 17, 1916, in Lincoln, England. Her father was E. V. Knox, editor of Punch magazine (1932-1949). One of her uncles, Monseigneur Ronald Knox, was well known as a translator of the Bible and a writer of detective stories.
Penelope attended Somerville College and, in 1941, married Desmond Fitzgerald with whom she raised three children. Her work experience was varied and included working in the Ministry of Food, for the BBC, in a haunted bookshop in Southwold, and as an English teacher. Her first professional experience in writing came in the 1950s when she worked as an assistant editor for the literary magazine, World Review. She began her writing career as the biographer of Edward Burne-Jones ( Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography, 1975) and of her father and his three brothers in The Knox Brothers (1977).
Fitzgerald began writing fiction after her husband was diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s, partly in an effort to entertain him through his illness. Her first published novel was a mystery, The Golden Child (1977). Her second novel, The Bookshop, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1978, and in 1979 Fitzgerald won the Booker Prize for her novel Offshore . She was also shortlisted for Innocence (1986), The Beginning of Spring (1988) and The Gate of Angels (1990). Fitzgerald won the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for lifetime achievement in literature in 1996 and was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Prize in 1997 for Blue Flower, her fictional biography of the German Romantic poet Novalis.
Penelope Fitzgerald died on April 28, 2000. A collection of her short stories, The Means of Escape, was published later that year. Her collected essays, A House of Air and The Afterlife, were also published posthumously in 2003.
From the guide to the Penelope Fitzgerald Papers TXRC91-A1., 1912-1988, (Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin)