Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, the home of her mother and grew up as the child of parents in the British Communist Party. Her father was a trade union leader and her mother a social worker. She won a state scholarship to St Paul’s Girl’s School (something which caused her father some anxiety because of his dislike of public schools and for a while he felt that she should not attend the school) and went on to read English at Newnham College Cambridge, with which she recently renewed working ties. She has worked, variously, as a cleaner, a dancer, an artist’s model, a teacher of children with special needs, a university teacher of literature and a psychoanalyst. Her first novel, ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’, became an international word-of-mouth bestseller and a favourite among book clubs and reading groups. She now writes full time and lectures widely on many subjects, particularly the connections between, art, literature, psychology and religion.
Her principal interests are opera, bird watching, dancing and poetry, to which her father introduced her at an early age. One of his favourite poets, W.B.Yeats was responsible for her name Salley, (the Irish for 'willow') which comes from Yeats’s poem set to music by Benjamin Britten 'Down by the salley gardens'. She has two adult sons, one of whom is the children’s writer of the Madame Pamplemousse books, Rupert Kingfisher, and two grandchildren, with whom she spends as much time as she possibly can. She is a member of PEN and the RSPB.