Brief Biography Adam Thorpe

Brief Biography Adam Thorpe (1956 – )

Poet, playwright and novelist Adam Thorpe was born in Paris in 1956 and grew up in India, Cameroon and England. After graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1979, he started a theatre company and toured villages and schools before moving to London where he taught Drama and English Literature. He is the author of Tyres, a short story some of you will be studying for your English Literature courses. More on the story will follow in my next post.

Photo of the writer Brief Biography Adam Thorpe
Adam Thorpe (1956 – )

Thorpe is a prolific writer and has published collections of poetry, novels, short stories and plays. His first novel, Ulverton (1992), a panoramic portrait of English rural history, was published to great critical acclaim and prompted novelist John Fowles, reviewing the book in The Guardian (28 May 1992), to call it ‘the most interesting first novel I have read these last years’. The book consists of 12 loosely-connected narrative episodes tracing 350 years in the history of a rural village and its inhabitants, employing various narrative forms from dense prose written in thick dialect to modern film script. The book won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize in 1992.

The novel Still (1995) follows film director Ricky Thornby’s ambitious plans to make an all-encompassing film about the twentieth century and Pieces of Light (1998) which describes a young boy’s childhood in West Africa and the mystery that develops when he is sent to live with an eccentric uncle in the English countryside on the eve of the Second World War. See Bibliography for other titles.


The short story, ‘Tyres’ that we are studying for our AS Literature course is from  his book of short stories Shifts (2000). In this collection, he explores interconnected themes of work and labour.

He is also the author of five plays for BBC Radio, including The Fen Story (1991), Offa’s Daughter (1993) and An Envied Place (2002), as well as a stage play, Couch Grass and Ribbon, first performed in 1996.

Adam Thorpe lives in France with his wife and three children. His most recent books are a collection of short stories: Is This The Way You Said? (2006), a poetry collection, Birds with a Broken Wing (2007), and novels The Standing Pool (2008),  Hodd (2009),  Flight (2012) and more.


 Published Books

 Prizes and Awards
Meeting Montaigne   Secker & Warburg, 1990

Ulverton   Secker & Warburg, 1992

Still   Secker & Warburg, 1995

Pieces of Light   Cape, 1998

From the Neanderthal   Cape, 1999

Shifts   Cape, 2000

Nineteen Twenty-One   Cape, 2001

No Telling   Cape, 2003

Nine Lessons From the Dark   Cape, 2003

The Rules of Perspective   Cape, 2005

Is This The Way You Said?   Cape, 2006

Between Each Breath   Cape, 2007

Birds with a Broken Wing   Cape, 2007

The Standing Pool   Cape, 2008

Hodd   Cape, 2009

Flight 2012
Voluntary 2012


1985   Eric Gregory Award

1988   Whitbread Poetry Award   (shortlist)   Mornings in the Baltic

1992   Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize   Ulverton

2007   Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year)   (shortlist)   Birds with a Broken Wing

2008   National Short Story Prize   (shortlist – ‘The Names’)

2010   Walter Scott Prize