Dame Hermione Lee is a professor of literature at Oxford University and a literary biographer of repute, specialising in American and women writers. She was chair of the Booker Prize judges in 2006.

Lee has spent a lifetime in academia in both the United States and in England, and her work includes biographies of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton. Although she confesses to ‘a passion for the big 19th-century American writers’ she has also written about her friend Philip Roth and the playwright Tom Stoppard. Lee is proud of the way Salman Rushdie’s 1981 Booker Prize win helped launch ‘a mighty career’. According to Lee, the great necessity for a biographer is: ‘You have to like their work’. Then, she goes on: ‘You hope you will like the person.’