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Antonia Forest (26 May 1915 – 28 November 2003) was the pseudonym of Patricia Giulia Caulfield Kate Rubinstein, 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. 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.
It could be said that 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, Dorset, and from the end of 1946 she was a Roman Catholic. Eventually she called herself "middle-aged, narrow-minded, anti-progressive AND PROUD OF IT".
Forest was an enthusiastic letter-writer, corresponding both with her readers and literary figures such as GB Stern. She never married, and for many years supported herself by renting out part of her house in Bournemouth.
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.
|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 series mingles genres, meaning the world of the Marlows is unusually fully described. The school stories particularly move beyond the normal constraints of the form, due to the wide-ranging interests of the talented protagonists and the strengths and weaknesses of members of the circle.
Antonia Forest's later books are notable for their use of a technique perhaps taken to its extreme in Richmal Crompton's 1965 story William and the Pop Singers: placing of characters who were created in an earlier age, and still seem essentially tied to that past time, in a very different world several decades later. So the same characters who initially recount their childhood experiences of the London Blitz eventually watch Up Pompeii! and, later still, make themselves up as punks, when they are only 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 had indicated she was working on a successor to Run Away Home, but no manuscript was found among her papers after her death in 2003.
Forest also wrote The Player's Boy (1970) and The Players and the Rebels (1971), which concern themselves with the ancestors of the Marlows in Shakespeare's time.
The Thursday Kidnapping (1963) was the only book by Antonia Forest not about the Marlows and the only one to be published in the U.S. It was a commended runner-up for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising 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.[a]
Forest's books have received critical praise from the likes of Victor Watson, who called her 'the Jane Austen' of children's literature  and Alison Shell, who has studied Forest's theme of recusant Catholicism.
After many years out of print, her books have gradually been returning to the public eye with a Faber reprint of Autumn Term in 2000 followed by Girls Gone By Publishers reprints of Falconer's Lure, Run Away Home and The Marlows and the Traitor during 2003, The Ready-Made Family and Peter's Room in 2004, and The Thuggery Affair in 2005. The Player's Boy was reprinted by Girls Gone By Publishers in 2006, The Players and the Rebels in 2008, and The Thursday Kidnapping in 2009.
In 2011 Spring Term, a continuation of the modern Marlow saga, was published by Girls Gone By, written by Sally Hayward, an Anglican verger.
- 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.
- Guardian, 9/12/2003
- Heazlewood, Anne, The Marlows and Their Maker, Girls Gone By Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904417-90-3
- Heazlewood, Anne The Marlows and Their Maker, Girls Gone By Publishers, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904417-90-3
- Nelson, Claudia in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, OUP, Oxford: 2006, ISBN 978-0195146561
- Forest, Antonia "The Thursday Kidnapping" New York: Coward-McCann, 1965
- "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- Watson, Victor, Reading Series Fiction, Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-22702-X
- Folly 42 (2004) [clarification needed]
- Hayward, Sally Spring Term Girls Gone By: 2011 ISBN 978-1847451163
- The Times Online Obituary (subscription required)
- Hilary Clare (2006), "School Stories Don't Count: The Neglected Genius of Antonia Forest" in Pat Pinsent (ed.) Out of the Attic
- Collecting Antonia Forest Books