AS Byatt dies at 87, a look at her family tragedy and relationship with sister novelist Margaret Drabble
AS Byatt, acclaimed author of Possession, who has passed away at 87, is the sister of novelist Margaret Drabble
Dame AS Byatt, who won the Booker Prize for her 1990 novel Possession, has passed away at the age of 87. Her publisher Clara Farmer, who is at Chatto & Windus, an imprint of Penguin Random House said in a statement: “We mourn her loss but it’s a comfort to know that her penetrating works will dazzle, shine and refract in the minds of readers for generations to come.”
According to her publishers, 2024 would have been Byatt’s 60th anniversary as a Chatto author. Her first husband was economist Ian Byatt, the couple had two children together and divorced in 1969. The same year, she married her second husband Peter Duffy, an investment analyst, and the couple had two daughters together, Isabel and Miranda.
However, in 1972, her 11 year old son Charles (from her first marriage) died after being hit by a drunk driver. The Times reported that “it took Byatt more than a decade to recover in any remotely significant way". “If it hadn’t happened, I would have written more — and differently,” she told one journalist. To another, she revealed: “You don’t get over it and you suffer greatly from people supposing that you will.” Every morning she said she woke up thinking “there is no boy”.
Byatt's sister is the author Margaret Drabble. Margaret discussed her relationship with her sister in The Guardian in 2013 and said: “Discussing my relationship with my sister (writer AS Byatt) just makes trouble. My siblings and I were never close - it wasn’t a warm family life. That’s why it makes me happy to see my three children get on so well.”
The late A.S. Byatt’s other siblings include the art historian Helen Langdon and Richard Drabble KC. According to Landmark Chambers, Richard is “quite simply one of the most talented and influential public lawyers of the last forty years”.