Hannah Gordon reads from Martin Stannard's biography of the acclaimed Scottish novelist, written with full access to her letters and papers.
Abridged by Rosemary Goring.
Marriage to an older man offers escape from the claustrophobia of Edinburgh's social microcosm, but the excesses of life in colonial Africa soon prove overwhelming.
Spark's unique literary voice is discovered when she wins The Observer's Christmas story competition in 1951 with The Seraph and the Zambesi, beating 7,000 other entries.
Spark's life is transformed by the publication of her fifth novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which gained critical and commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic when it was published in 1961.
Despite finding companionable happiness in Italy, the vexations of Spark's family life continued to intrude long into her old age.