Antonia Forest

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Antonia Forest (26 May 1915 – 28 November 2003) was the pseudonym of Patricia Giulia Caulfield Kate Rubinstein,[1] an English writer of children's novels whose real name was not made public during her lifetime. She is best known for the Marlow series.


Forest was born to part Russian-Jewish and Irish parents on 26 May 1915.[2] She grew up in Hampstead, London, and was educated at South Hampstead High School and University College, London, where she studied journalism. During the Second World War she worked at an Army Pay Office.[3]

She embraced the way of life of the upper middle classes of the English shires with the zeal of the convert. From 1938 until her death she lived in Bournemouth and Dorset. At the end of 1946, she was a Roman Catholic. Eventually, she called herself "middle-aged, narrow-minded, anti-progressive and proud of it".[citation needed]

Forest was a letter-writer, corresponding both with her readers and literary figures such as GB Stern.[4] She never married, and for many years supported herself by renting out part of her house in Bournemouth.[3]

Marlow series[edit]

Forest's best-known work is a series of novels featuring one contemporary generation of the Marlows, an ancient landed family whose patriarch is a Royal Navy commander (later captain). Among eight children, all six daughters go to Kingscote, a boarding school where the four books named after school "Terms" are set.

Marlow books featuring the modern family
Title Date   Setting Twins' Form ‡ 
Autumn Term 1948 Autumn term Third Form
The Marlows and the Traitor  1953 Easter holidays Third Form
Falconer's Lure 1957 Summer holidays Third Form
End of Term 1959 Autumn term Lower Fourth
Peter's Room 1961 Christmas holidays Lower Fourth
The Thuggery Affair 1965 Spring half-term Lower Fourth
The Ready-Made Family 1967 Easter holidays Lower Fourth
The Cricket Term 1974 Summer term Lower Fourth
The Attic Term 1976 Autumn term Upper Fourth
Run Away Home 1982 Christmas holidays  Upper Fourth 
‡ "Twins' Form" refers to the school stages of twins Nicola and Lawrie.

The Marlows' world is unusually fully described. The school stories feature the talented protagonists' wide-ranging interests and the strengths and weaknesses of members of their circle.[5]

Forest's books were later noted for their technique in Richmal Crompton's 1965 story William and the Pop Singers: placing of characters who were created in an earlier age, and still are essentially tied to that past time, in a different world several decades later. The same characters who initially recount their childhood experiences of the London Blitz watch Up Pompeii! and make themselves up as punks when they are a few years older. The 1976 book The Attic Term is notable for its use of the teenage character Patrick Merrick to express Forest's personal opposition to changes in Roman Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council.

Forest indicated she was working on a successor to Run Away Home, but no manuscript was found among her papers after her death in 2003.[3]

Forest also wrote The Player's Boy (1970) and The Players and the Rebels (1971), which are about the Marlows' ancestors in Shakespeare's time.


The Thursday Kidnapping (1963) was Forest's only book not about the Marlows and the only one to be published in the U.S.[6] It was a commended runner-up for the Library Association's Carnegie Medal for the year's best children's book by a British subject. Two of the modern Marlows books were also commended runners-up, Falconer's Lure for 1957 and Peter's Room for 1961.[7][a]

Forest's books have received critical praise from Victor Watson, who called her 'the Jane Austen' of children's literature,[8] and from Alison Shell, who has studied Forest's theme of recusant Catholicism.[9] They featured in Lucy Mangan's 2012 memoir of favourite childhood reading;[10] she chose the first Marlow book as one of her top picks for a children's library, saying of the series: 'they are dense and complex books, but among the most fulfilling reads I think a child can have. When I first came across CS Lewis's adage "I read to know that I am not alone", it was the Marlows I thought of'.[11]


Years after Forest's books went out of print, they gradually returned to the public eye with a Faber reprint of Autumn Term in 2000. It was followed by Girls Gone By Publishers reprints of Falconer's Lure, Run Away Home, The Marlows and the Traitor, The Ready-Made Family, Peter's Room, and The Thuggery Affair. Girls Gone By reprinted The Player's Boy in 2006, The Players and the Rebels in 2008, and The Thursday Kidnapping in 2009. Since reacquiring the copyright of all Forest's books apart from Autumn Term, Girls Gone By also published new editions of End of Term (2017) and The Cricket Term (2020). They also reprinted The Marlows and the Traitor (2015), Falconer's Lure (2016), Peter's Room (2018) and The Thuggery Affair (2019).

In 2011, Girls Gone By published Spring Term, a continuation of the modern Marlow saga by Sally Hayward.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Today there are usually eight books on the Carnegie shortlist. According to CCSU, there were about 160 commendations of two kinds in 49 years from 1954 to 2002, including six for 1957, four 1961, and five 1963.


  1. ^ "Antonia Forest". The Independent. 8 October 2013. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  2. ^ Guardian, 9/12/2003
  3. ^ a b c Heazlewood, Anne, The Marlows and Their Maker, Girls Gone By Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904417-90-3
  4. ^ Heazlewood, Anne The Marlows and Their Maker, Girls Gone By Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904417-90-3
  5. ^ Nelson, Claudia in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, OUP, Oxford: 2006, ISBN 978-0195146561
  6. ^ Forest, Antonia "The Thursday Kidnapping" New York: Coward-McCann, 1965
  7. ^ "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  8. ^ Watson, Victor, Reading Series Fiction, Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-22702-X
  9. ^ Folly 42 (2004)[clarification needed]
  10. ^ Mangan, Lucy, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading, Square Peg, 2012. ISBN 978-1784709228
  11. ^ "Book corner with Lucy Mangan: No 16: Autumn Term by Antonia Forest (1948)". The Guardian. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  12. ^ Hayward, Sally Spring Term Girls Gone By: 2011 ISBN 978-1847451163

External links[edit]