Katharine Norbury

Writer - non-fiction

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Photograph: Robin Farquhar Thomson


Agent: Caradoc King
Assistant: Becky Percival


Katharine Norbury trained as a film editor with the BBC, later becoming a script editor, and worked for many years with the writer Alan Bleasdale. She completed the MA in Creative Writing at UEA and teaches writing about place to undergraduates. She lives in London with her family.The Fish Ladder is her first book.

The Fish Ladder, which combines nature writing and travelogue with memoir, was published globally by Bloomsbury in April 2015.

Reviews on The Fish Ladder:

This is an unusual memoir leading from the grief of a death to the shocking discovery of a birth. The fluid narrative, with its tributaries and false trails, its reflections of dream-like memories and focus on indiscernible destinations, seems to follow the rivers along which Katharine Norbury loves to travel. She has written a magical and most original first book -Michael Holroyd

'What a delight! The Fish Ladder is a luminous sort of book, beautifully written, darting here and there like a kingfisher over a stream. A beautiful, strange, intoxicating and utterly unique story' - Philip Pullman

'There is much to learn from The Fish Ladder about how the memoir can tell a story as well as be a meditation; how language can be both profound and sensuous. It's an unsentimental but extraordinary exploration of how we use narrative to understand our place in the world' - Amit Chaudhuri

‘Deeply affecting, atmospheric and sensuous’ - Polly Samson

'The Fish Ladder is truly compelling. Its diverse mix of nature, travel and personal history combines to produce a moving journal of one woman's endeavours to walk from dark into light. Warm and touching, it's impact lies in its simplicity and emotional power' -Jo Brand

'The Fish Ladder is a beautiful book. An exquisite example of 'new nature writing'. The scattered fragments of pain and loss and loveliness are bound together into a coherent whole. A generous, moving book and extraordinarily well written too' - Sara Maitland

'The Fish Ladder is ... proof that even our beset and battered time will reveal marvels and mysterious patterns to someone who is resolved to find them and arrange them in a story. It is also, at least in the opinion of this (male) reader, a very good book about what it is like to be a modern woman. Katharine Norbury deserves many readers of both sexes. They will find her journey quietly bewitching' - Horatio Clare in the Sunday Telegraph

'The Fish Ladder is a deeply human story that is by turns dramatic, moving and beautifully written. It’s a book about both nature and personal tragedy, but it’s also about the way the green and healing world around us restores the grieving soul. What gives its flowing, watery narrative an underlying sense of purpose is the sheer drive of its narrator. Norbury is an immensely assured writer, and it is astonishing to reflect that this is her first book' -Mark Cocker in The Mail on Sunday

'A beguiling amalgam of personal anecdote, travelogue and family history . Norbury attains a wonder-struck prose poetry' - Independent

'An examination of the consoling effect of the natural world on human grief and torment . The connection between water and life ... is for Norbury a visceral ... thing. As I turned the pages of her book, I couldn't help but think of The Tempest, and of Ariel's song: Full fathom five thy father lies' - Rachel Cooke, Observer.

Katharine is currently working on an anthology of women nature writers which is forthcoming with Unbound.


Publication DetailsNotes




As a baby Katharine was abandoned in a Liverpool convent. Following the miscarriage of a much-longed-for child she sets out – accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter – to follow a river from the sea to its source. The luminously observed landscape grounds the walkers, earths them, providing both a constant, and a context to their wanderings. But what begins as a diversion from grief evolves into a journey to the source of life itself, and to the door of the woman who abandoned her.