Madeline Wickham was born in London. She did her schooling in Putney High School and Sherborne School for Girls. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). Wickham worked as a financial journalist (including for Pensions World) before turning to fiction.
While working as a financial journalist, at the age of 24, she wrote her first novel. The Tennis Party was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. She went on to publish six more novels as Madeleine Wickham: A Desirable Residence, Swimming Pool Sunday, The Gatecrasher, The Wedding Girl, Cocktails for Three and Sleeping Arrangements.