‘All her movies are nonfiction’: remembering the life and work of Nora Ephron

In an expansive new biography, the acclaimed writer and director’s complexities are explored and contextualised

You can’t chart the whole of Nora Ephron with just the name-making hits that placed her atop the end-of-the-century romcom boom, but you can’t do so without them, either. The polymath writer’s best-known traits – her barbed wit, her particular taste mistaken by some for pickiness, her profound and enduring love of food – course through scripting gigs like When Harry Met Sally … as well as such directorial projects as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Lovelorn and loquacious, this is the Nora fans feel they know well enough to assume the first-name basis, a characterization that only covers one side of a many-splendored woman. Kristin Marguerite Doidge, the author of the newly released Nora Ephron: A Biography, hopes to expand the image of a singular talent for the blinker-visioned faithful and uninitiated alike.

“She wrote for five or six decades, and so everyone comes to her from a different angle,” Doidge tells the Guardian from her home in Los Angeles. “Some people might have seen Heartburn before anything else, or maybe you remember seeing This Is My Life with your grandma. Some people find her much later, when she was feeling bad about her neck. The general public tends to think of her as the romantic comedy queen, the lady who did You’ve Got Mail. That’s just one part of her, and what she stands for. A lot of the younger generation doesn’t even know Nora and her movies. I teach at a university, and when I say her name, I get a lot of blank stares. It’s crazy!”

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