Penelope Farmer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Penelope Jane Farmer (born 1939) is an English fiction writer best known for children's fantasy novels.


Farmer was born as a fraternal twin in Westerham, Kent, on 14 June 1939. She was the third child of Hugh Robert MacDonald (died 26 May 2004) and Penelope Boothby Farmer.[1] Her parents and the medical staff at the hospital were not aware of her presence until some 25 minutes after the birth of her twin sister Judith.[2] Throughout Farmer's life, being a twin has been a defining element of her understanding of her identity. The twins have an older brother, Tim, and a younger sister, Sally.[3]

After attending a boarding school, she read history at St Anne's College, Oxford and did postgraduate work at Bedford College, University of London.[4]

Farmer was known in 2012 to be living on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. She there described herself as "a writer – published for many years, now struggling", and listed "her grandchildren" among those she loved and missed. Other relations were mentioned: the departure of her daughter and a granddaughter (23 April 2004). The 22 April 2010 entry states that her son was among those staying with her, with his daughters aged eight and twelve.[5][better source needed]

Writing career[edit]

Farmer's first publication was The China People, a collection of literary fairy tales for young people, in 1960.[1] One story written for this collection was judged too long to include. This was re-written as the first chapter of her first novel for children, The Summer Birds. In 1963, this received a Carnegie Medal commendation and was cited as an American Library Association Notable Book.[3] The Summer Birds was soon followed by its sequels, Emma in Winter (1966) and Charlotte Sometimes (1969), and by A Castle of Bone (1972), Year King (1977), Thicker than Water (1989), Penelope: A Novel (1993), and Granny and Me (1998).

Farmer stated that she, while writing Emma in Winter, did not realize that identity was such a predominant theme in the novel until she encountered Margery Fisher's comments on the book. She had a similar realization, this time on her own, while writing Charlotte Sometimes.[6]


  • The China People (1960)
  • The Summer Birds (1962)
  • Magic Stone (1964)
  • Emma in Winter (1966) – sequel
  • Sea Gull (1966)
  • Charlotte Sometimes (1969) – sequel
  • Serpent's Teeth: The Story of Cadmus (1971)
  • Daedalus and Icarus (1971)
  • Story of Persephone (1972)
  • A Castle of Bone (1972)
  • William and Mary (1974)
  • August the Fourth (1975)
  • Heracles (1975)
  • Year King (1977)
  • Beginnings: Creation Myths of the World (1978)
  • Standing in the Shadow (1984)
  • Away from Home (1987)
  • Eve: Her Story (1988)
  • Glasshouses (1989)
  • Snakes and Ladders (1993)
  • Thicker Than Water (1993)
  • Two, or: The Book of Twins and Doubles (1996)
  • Penelope: A Novel (1996)
  • Sisters: An Anthology (1999)
  • Virago Book of Grandmothers (2000)
  • Goodnight Ophelia (2015)[7]


  1. ^ a b "Dictionary of Literary Biography : Penelope (Jane) Farmer". Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Farmer, Penelope (1996). Two, or The Book of Twins & Doubles. London: Virago Press. p. 11. 
  3. ^ a b Something About the Author. Something About the Author Series. 105. Gale. 1999. p. 64. ISBN 0787621269. 
  4. ^ Anita Silvey, ed: Children's books and their creators (New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1995), p. 238.
  5. ^ "Blogger: User Profile: granny p". Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Penelope, Fisher (1976). in Geoff Fox, Graham Hammond, Terry Jones, Frederic Smith, Kenneth Sterck, eds. Writers, Critics, and Children. New York: Agathon Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-87586-054-0. 
  7. ^ Vulpes Libris Retrieved 29 January 2017.

External links[edit]