RIP Nina Bawden, 1925 to 2012
August 27, 2012 12:59 PM   Subscribe

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 (extract, review) about the accident and its aftermath, including the unsuccessful campaign for a public enquiry.
posted by paduasoy (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Renoroc at 2:10 PM on August 27, 2012

one of the first writers for children to create characters who could be jealous, selfish and bad-tempered

perhaps, but see Huckleberry Finn
posted by caddis at 2:15 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Carrie's War is an amazing book, and should be better known in the US. I hadn't known much about Bawden until reading her obituaries; she sounds like a complicated, brave, and delightful person.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:55 PM on August 27, 2012

What a brilliantly written obituary for a woman who deserved to be lauded in death as in life.
posted by dejah420 at 4:05 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by gusandrews at 4:27 PM on August 27, 2012

Carrie's War and The Peppermint Pig were two of my favourite books when I was a kid. I feel like I might have read something for adults by her more recently, but I can't pin it down.
posted by lollusc at 4:50 PM on August 27, 2012

I was absolutely shattered hearing about her loss, her books made up a huge part of my childhood. This goodbye on Spitalfields Life is also well worth a read.
posted by themadthinker at 5:32 PM on August 27, 2012

Oh goodness. I loved Carrie's War and The Witch's Daughter.

posted by andraste at 6:05 PM on August 27, 2012

posted by c'mon sea legs at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2012

What a shame. Carrie's War was one of the first chapter books I owned; I still have that copy, thirty years and three countries later. Time for a reread, I think.

posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:36 PM on August 28, 2012

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