Nina Bawden, writer of novels for adults and children, born in 1925, died on 22nd August 2012. “As a child, Nina said, she had felt wicked because the children in the books she read were all so good, and she was one of the first writers for children to create characters who could be jealous, selfish and bad-tempered” (Guardian obituary
Bawden alternated between writing for children and for adults year by year, describing this as “a useful and satisfyingly real way of working, making use of all my life, all memory, wasting nothing” (Telegraph obituary
). A 1994 interview
discusses “the bright, purposeful, gutsy children in her books [and] the more defeated characters of her adult novels”. In a 2003 profile
she describes a play she wrote being put on at school: “when I heard the dialogue I realised it was dreadful – one of the wicked hunters fell into a tiger trap … and he said 'Damn it Carruthers, I have broken my confounded leg.' And when I heard this I realised it was the most terrible thing anyone had ever done so I ran away to the lavatories and hid and wept."
Bawden’s best known novel for children is probably Carrie’s War
(1973), about children evacuated to Wales: this review at Reading Matters
gives a sense of the book and some quotations. There is also an activity pack
(PDF) and teachers’ notes
(Word). The 1974 television serial
is on YouTube (link is to first episode). The Peppermint Pig
(1975) grew from stories from her mother and grandmother of growing up in Norfolk in the nineteenth century: this review from The Book Bag
gives a sense of it.
Bawden was interviewed on Desert Island Discs in 1995
. At 0.15 she talks about putting her foot in it over Wordsworth at her Oxford entrance interview; from 0.25 she talks about her son's illness.
She was recognised by several awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for The Peppermint Pig
and the Phoenix Award for Carrie’s War
. Circles of Deceit
(1987) was shortlisted for the Booker and The Birds on the Trees
(1970) for the Lost Booker
. Both of these adult novels drew on her experiences of her son’s schizophrenia.
Bawden was injured in the Potters Bar rail crash
in 2002, in which her husband was killed. She wrote Dear Austen
) about the accident and its aftermath, including the unsuccessful campaign for a public enquiry.