Barbara was born and brought up in South Africa, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants who settled in the Karoo in the early 1900s. She went to school in Durban and Port Elizabeth and then graduated from Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape during the height of apartheid.
She is married and has two sons. For most of the year the family lives in Surrey near London but spends time whenever possible at their home in the Cape.
Barbara loves music and is a gifted pianist like Ada in The Housemaid's Daughter. She has a particular interest in Cape fynbos and birds, as well as being a follower of African politics and history.