With her niece, Lisa Martin, she wrote the children's book, Anton and Cecil. She has one child, Adrienne, born in 1975.
Her other fictional works include Set in Motion (1978), Alexandra (1979), A Recent Martyr (1987), The Consolation of Nature and Other Stories (1988), The Great Divorce (1993), Italian Fever (1999), The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories (2006), Trespass (2007), and The Confessions of Edward Day (2009), as well as Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis (2001), a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. Her most recent novel, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, was published in 2014, and Sea Lovers: Selected Stories appeared in 2016.
Her 1990 novel, Mary Reilly, a retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of a servant in the doctor's house, was released in 1996 as the Columbia TriStar Pictures film, Mary Reilly. It is directed by Stephen Frears and stars John Malkovich as Dr. Jekyll and Julia Roberts as Mary.
The short subject film Surface Calm (2001) is based on her short story of the same title from her first book, Love (1977).
Her novel Property (2003) won the prestigious Orange Prize. In 2012, The Observer named Property as one of "The 10 best historical novels".