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Antonia Forest

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Antonia Forest
BornPatricia Giulia Caulfield Kate Rubinstein
26 May 1915
London, England
Died29 November 2003(2003-11-29) (aged 88)
Bournemouth, Bournemouth Unitary Authority, Dorset, England
Resting placeWimborne Road Cemetery
Pen nameAntonia Forest
EducationUniversity College, London
Notable worksMarlow series

Antonia Forest (26 May 1915 – 28 November 2003) was the pseudonym of Patricia Giulia Caulfield Kate Rubinstein,[1] an English writer. She wrote 13 books for children, published between 1948 and 1982. Her 10 best-known works concern the doings of the fictional Marlow family. Forest also wrote two historical novels about the Marlows' Elizabethan ancestors.[2]


Forest was born to part Russian-Jewish and Irish parents on 26 May 1915.[3] She grew up in Hampstead, London, and was educated at South Hampstead High School and University College, London, where she studied journalism. During World War II, she worked at an Army Pay Office.[4]

From 1938 until her death in 2003, Forest lived in Bournemouth and Dorset.[citation needed]

Although she was brought up Reform Jewish, her views became increasingly influenced by Christianity. In 1946, she converted to Roman Catholicism.[5]

Forest frequently corresponded with her readers and literary figures such as GB Stern.[6] She never married, and supported herself by renting out part of her house in Bournemouth.[4]

Marlow series[edit]

Forest is known for the Marlow 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.

The Marlows' world is richly described, with the school stories featuring the protagonists' wide-ranging interests and the strengths and weaknesses of members of their circle.[7] The Attic Term is notable for its use of the teenage character Patrick Merrick to express Forest's opposition to changes in Roman Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council.

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

Marlow books featuring the contemporary 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 Marlow books have been noted for their 'floating timeline'; the same characters who experienced the London Blitz as children go on to watch Up Pompeii! and make themselves up as punks only a few years later.

Although Forest indicated that she was working on a successor to Run Away Home, no manuscript was found among her papers after her death in 2003.[4] In 2011, Girls Gone By published the book Spring Term by Sally Hayward as a continuation of the Marlow series, which received positive reviews.[8][9]


The Thursday Kidnapping (1963) was Forest's only book not about the Marlows, and the only one published in the U.S.[10] 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 Marlow books were also commended runners-up for the medal: Falconer's Lure and Peter's Room, for 1957 and 1961 respectively.[11][a]

Forest's books have received critical praise from Victor Watson, who called her "the Jane Austen of children's literature",[12] and from Alison Shell, who has studied Forest's theme of recusant Catholicism.[13]

The Marlow books also featured in Lucy Mangan's 2012 memoir of favourite childhood reading.[14] Mangan 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 C.S. Lewis's adage, "I read to know that I am not alone", it was the Marlows I thought of'.[15]


All of Forest's books, initially published by Faber, went out of print for several decades. This situation was condemned as "outrageous" by The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English (2001), which mentions Forest first in its section on neglected works, citing her as "one of the best children's writers of the 20th century" and noting that her work is marked by "extraordinary richness and complexity of characterisation, sensitive treatment of difficult situations, and a deep love of history and literature".[16]

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).

The Marlows and Their Maker: A Companion to the Series by Antonia Forest was published in 2007.

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. ^ "Antonia Forest". The Independent. 5 December 2003. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  3. ^ Guardian, 9/12/2003
  4. ^ a b c Heazlewood, Anne, The Marlows and Their Maker, Girls Gone By Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904417-90-3
  5. ^ http://www.sims.abel.co.uk/Info/Antonia%20Forest.pdf
  6. ^ Heazlewood, Anne The Marlows and Their Maker, Girls Gone By Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904417-90-3
  7. ^ Nelson, Claudia in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, OUP, Oxford: 2006, ISBN 978-0195146561
  8. ^ Hayward, Sally Spring Term Girls Gone By: 2011 ISBN 978-1847451163
  9. ^ "Spring Term (The Marlows, #11)". Goodreads.com.
  10. ^ Forest, Antonia "The Thursday Kidnapping" New York: Coward-McCann, 1965
  11. ^ "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  12. ^ Watson, Victor, Reading Series Fiction, Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-22702-X
  13. ^ Folly 42 (2004) [clarification needed]
  14. ^ Mangan, Lucy, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading, Square Peg, 2012. ISBN 978-1784709228
  15. ^ "Book corner with Lucy Mangan: No 16: Autumn Term by Antonia Forest (1948)". The Guardian. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Antonia Forest". The Independent. 5 December 2003. Retrieved 21 August 2023.

External links[edit]