Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian Nina Bawden , who has died aged 87, came into the world with a gift for storytelling. Many of her books won awards; most were still in print at her death. A sad, impassioned coda came in with the memoir Dear Austen , addressed to her husband, Austen Kark , who, along with six other people, had been killed three years earlier when the train they were travelling on was derailed at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. In the s, two of her best novels, Circles of Deceit , which was shortlisted for the Booker prize, and Family Money , were successfully televised.
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Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian Nina Bawden , who has died aged 87, came into the world with a gift for storytelling. Many of her books won awards; most were still in print at her death. A sad, impassioned coda came in with the memoir Dear Austen , addressed to her husband, Austen Kark , who, along with six other people, had been killed three years earlier when the train they were travelling on was derailed at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.
In the s, two of her best novels, Circles of Deceit , which was shortlisted for the Booker prize, and Family Money , were successfully televised. Television adaptations of it were made in both and Nonetheless, In My Own Time: Almost an Autobiography , conveys her sense that "darkness and chaos threaten us all, lying in wait at the bottom of the garden, lurking outside the safe, lighted room".
The motif runs through her fiction and it figured in her life. In writing both for adults and children, she liked "making use of all my life, all memory, wasting nothing"; her books, if read in sequence, were a "coded autobiography". Moreover, "All writers are liars. They twist events to suit themselves. They make use of their own tragedies to make a better story They are terrible people. In she went to Somerville college to read philosophy, politics and economics. Her lifelong socialism was fired when as a young evacuee in Wales she heard a speech by Aneurin Bevan.
Public and political issues often surface in her stories. But her main interest lay in people and their private dramas, played out in the marriages, adulteries, deceits, rivalries and sexual, financial and family intrigues that fill her fiction. After Oxford, her own life moved rapidly through similar dramas. In , she married Henry Bawden, a scholar and ex-serviceman considerably older than herself; they bought a house in London with money left him by his mother, who took her own life during their engagement.
Nina hoped to become a foreign correspondent, worked at the Town and Country Planning Association instead, then found she was pregnant. She had two sons, Niki and Robert, and started writing novels while her babies were asleep.
She met Austen on a bus. He was married to Margaret Solomon and had two young daughters. He and Nina set about getting divorced, and married each other in 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.
Her young readers responded with grateful letters. She approached these books as seriously as her adult fiction, and found her work in one genre often enriched the other. By the late s, while Austen was rising to eminence at the BBC, Nina sat as a magistrate on the Surrey bench as well as writing. The family — who now included their daughter, Perdita — enjoyed a happy, sociable life in a large house in Weybridge with a croquet lawn. And then a shadow appeared. In his teens, Niki, the most sensitive of their children, ran into difficulties whose causes eluded not only his parents but the professionals whom they consulted.
It emerged that he was using drugs including LSD; later, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Because of bureaucratic errors, his parents feared, but did not know, that he was dead until months after he had drowned himself in the Thames.
Though she had not intended it, she decided to let him stay. The death of "my gentle schizophrenic" would make a moving climax to the story, she thought. Yet when she came to it, she could not bear to let him die in a book. As well as being emotionally devastated by the trauma of the Potters Bar derailment in , Nina was seriously injured.
Quietly but effectively, she recalled the horror of her recent experience, contrasting it with the respect she felt for railway workers whom she had known as a child. It was an impressive contribution to the public controversy. Though Nina seemed fragile, there was a strong power of survival at her core. Her courage and resourcefulness were helped by the art that transformed everything she experienced.
She is survived by Robert; Perdita died earlier this year.
Nina Bawden obituary
Yet the novel speaks with painful truth about the ripple effects of war. The way we write about war has lost its innocence. When soldiers wrote home from the first and second world wars they spared their loved ones the realities of the trenches. In the noughties, when Suzanne Collins wanted to write about the invasion of Iraq, she wrote The Hunger Games , a piece of hypnotically violent science fiction. Like Lewis, Collins was seeking an allegory to transplant anxiety about war, but ironically also needed to give her videogaming teen audience plenty of combat. In , we are still a nation at war, but there has been a reversal of fortunes. No more tactful letters home in shaky longhand.
English KS2: Carrie's War by Nina Bawden
Plot[ edit ] A frame story has Carrie visiting the town as a widow with three children. She tells the children what happened thirty years before. Carrie Willow and her younger brother Nick are evacuated to a rundown mining town in Wales during the Second World War. Carrie and Nick become friends with Albert and Johnny and spend a lot of time there. It is revealed that Mr Evans has been estranged from his older sister, Mrs Gotobed, after she married a wealthy Englishman whose family owned the mines where their father was killed in an accident. Carrie is caught in the rift between the brother and sister. Despite almost universal contempt for Mr Evans, Carrie gives him a chance and sees that, beneath his rough exterior, he genuinely is a well-meaning man, who became embittered with the world due to his hard life and the feud with his older sister, to whom he was once very close.
While visiting the small Welsh mining town where she was billeted during World War II, Carrie Willow, a 42 year old widow with four children, tells them the story of her evacuation. At the start of the war, Carrie, then 11 and her younger brother Nick, 9, were put on a train along with so many other school children, to escape the anticipated bombing of London by the Germans. In Wales, they end up living with a bullying, miserly shopkeeper, Mr. Evans, and his weak, oppressed younger sister, whom they are told to call Auntie Lou, eventually adjusting to life in this strained household. Evans other sister, Dilys Gotobed. That night, Hepzibah tells them a story about a slave boy who was brought there and died within a year. Before he died, he cursed the house, saying that if his skull is ever removed from the house, some disaster would occur.
Nina Bawden's Carrie's War speaks a truth about the ripple effects of conflict