PERSONAL: Born in Gothenburg, Sweden; immigrated to England; daughter of a newspaper tycoon; married (divorced); children: Jeremy, Harriet. Education: Attended Lund University.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—AP Watt Ltd., 20 John St., London WC1N 2DR, England.
A Rival Creation, Bantam (London, England), 1994.
Guppies for Tea, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Purveyor of Enchantment, St. Martin's Press, (New York, NY), 1998.
Frozen Music, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Shooting Butterflies, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2003.
Author's work was translated into German.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Another novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Swedish-born author Marika Cobbold has written a handful of novels featuring female characters who deal with those whom they love. The daughter of a newspaper magnate and his artistic wife, eighteen-year-old Cobbold married an Englishman and immigrated to rural England, where she lived for twenty years. After seven years of living in England, it felt natural to her to write in her adopted language, and she snatched time from her child-rearing responsibilities to write on a regular basis. In her fiction she employs her outsider's eye and hybrid language to good effect, and published her highly successful Guppies for Tea in 1994.
In Guppies for Tea which Booklist reviewer Theresa Pucato called a "warm and funny novel," Cobbold portrays the lives of three generations of women: Selma, a widow who is becoming senile and who must be moved to a retirement home; Dagmar, her daughter who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder; and Amelia, Selma's thirty-one-year-old granddaughter, who wants to rescue Selma from the questionable events at the retirement home. Noting that this novel "could have been a splendidly raucous black farce," a Times Literary Supplement reviewer noted that Cobbold chose to be gentle instead. According to a Publishers Weekly critic, the plot clearly shows "the poignance and pain of seeing a once-vibrant individual confined in a loveless environment." Cobbold demonstrates compassion for those whose loved ones are senile and who must care for them, positioning the story on "a scrap of territory between maudlin and the farcical," as a Kirkus Reviews critic maintained while dubbing the novel "delightful."
In The Purveyor of Enchantment, which a Kirkus Reviews contributor called a "light, endearing story of love and modern anxiety," Clementine Hope has inherited a cottage from her Great Aunt Elvira, whose eccentricities are compared to her own, much to her displeasure. Clementine lives with her half-sister Ophelia, dates her neighbor Nathaniel, and worries about crime, disease, and death. A writer, Clementine is editing a collection of fairy tales, and events in her life often mirror the story she is editing. While a Publishers Weekly critic remarked that the novel blends "prim lyricism with comically blunt faux pas" and is "basically sweet … spiced with … salty carnality," Library Journal reviewer Kathy Ingels Helmond summed the novel up as a "funny modern-day fairy tale."
Frozen Music and Shooting Butterflies both feature strong female protagonists. In Frozen Music long-time pen pals Esther Fisher and Linus Stendal meet serendipitously after each has already lived one lifetime—he as a divorced architect, she as an outspoken social activist and journalist. The two begin a star-crossed romance, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted is leavened "with a healthy dose of ironic humor." Like Esther Fisher, the protagonist of Shooting Butterflies, Grace Shield, is strong, "the toughtest sister yet to emerge from the author's wishful imagination … and the one with the best lines," to quote Helen Falconer of the Manchester Guardian. Although Grace has survived what many would consider more tragedies than anyone deserves in a lifetime, she has a different perspective on life. "I've been told by some people that Shooting Butterflies is a dark novel, but I think it's about hope," Cobbold wrote at the Australian Women's Weekly Online. "We often hear how tragedy may lurk behind a glittering facade. Well, Grace, my main protagonist claims sometimes a perfectly good life might be hiding behind a tragic facade."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1994, Theresa Ducato, review of Guppies for Tea, pp. 1768-1769.
Christian Science Monitor, September 23, 1994, review of Guppies for Tea, p. 12.
Guardian (Manchester, England), February 1, 2003, Helen Falconer, "Snap Happy," review of Shooting Butterflies, p. 27.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1994, review of Guppies for Tea, pp. 645-646; November 15, 1997, review of The Purveyor of Enchantment, pp. 1659-1660.
Library Journal, January, 1998, Kathy Ingels Helmond, review of The Purveyor of Enchantment, p. 138.
Observer (London, England), May 29, 1994, review of Guppies for Tea, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1994, review of Guppies for Tea, pp. 77-78; November 17, 1997, review of The Purveyor of Enchantment, p. 53; October 25, 1999, review of Frozen Music, p. 50.
Times Literary Supplement, March 5, 1993, review of Guppies for Tea, p. 22.
Australian Women's Weekly Online, http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/ (December 10, 2004), interview with Cobbold.