McEwen, Helena 1961-

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McEwen, Helena 1961-


Born 1961, in Marchmont, Scotland. Education: Chelsea School of Art, B.A. (with honors), 1989; Kensington and Chelsea College, city and guilds teacher's training certificate, 1995.


Home—Penzance, Cornwall, England. Agent—A.M. Heath, 6 Warwick Ct., London WC1R 5DJ, England.


Teacher of painting and drawing classes and workshops for adults and children at art galleries in Sheffield, England, 1995-98; Kensington and Chelsea College, London, England, painting teacher, 1998-2000, 2003; writer and artist, 2000—. Teacher of creative expression workshops, 1997; Chelsea Estates Youth Group, leader of arts activities, 1999-2000; Trinity Hospice, facilitator, 2001; Hypatia Trust, creative writing teacher, 2004-05; University College Falmouth, part-time lecturer, 2005-06; gives readings from her works.


J.B. Priestley Award, writer of outstanding promise, 2006.


The Big House (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1999.

Ghost Girl (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 2004.


Helena McEwen was born and raised in Scotland. Her debut novel, The Big House, has been compared with the work of such writers as Katherine Mansfield and D.H. Lawrence. The story opens with the suicide of the narrator's brother, James, and the drowning death of her sister, Kitty. To cope with the loss of her siblings, the narrator, Elizabeth, returns to her childhood home and relives childhood memories. Christina Patterson wrote in the Observer: "Elizabeth returns to her memories of childhood in a large Scottish mansion. She describes, with breathtaking clarity and simplicity, a world of nursery teas, roaring fires, fierce nannies, hunts and a mother who sweeps in and out of the children's orbit." "McEwen writes with such fierce charm and conviction, and the world she creates is so hermetically complete, that there is barely a chink for doubt to creep in," observed reviewer Candice Rodd in the Times Literary Supplement. "McEwen succeeds brilliantly in capturing those universal themes of childhood: fear, confusion and wonder," commented Frances Atkinson in the Melbourne Age.

Ghost Girl, while not a sequel, explores the next stage in the growth of a young girl. Cath is about thirteen when her parents, posted to faraway lands, enroll her in a convent boarding school. They entrust her holiday supervision to older sister Verity, a would-be artist dwelling and looking for adventure in the bohemian neighborhoods of 1970s London. The contrast between school and city—forbidding religious atmosphere versus liberating decadence of the outside world—enables McEwen to depict the soul of a girl who belongs to neither world, a girl who spends much of her time inside her own head while her body drifts in ghostly fashion from one venue to the other. As Jennie Renton described it in the Glasgow Sunday Herald, "With a clairvoyant acuity that refuses to be staunched, Cath discovers a sense of belonging in her own cosmic vision." Ghost Girl earned its author the serious attention of several critics. Kate Salter observed in the Times Literary Supplement that "Ghost Girl succeeds in rising above more conventional treatments of [coming of age in the 1970s] chiefly thanks to the authenticity of its central voice." Time Out contributor Anna Scott wrote: "Mc- Ewen captures the impressionability of youth, as well as the visceral nature of emotions which have yet to be dulled by experience."



Age (Melbourne, Australia), March 20, 2000, Frances Atkinson, review of The Big House.

Glasgow Sunday Herald, June 27, 2004, Jennie Renton, review of Ghost Girl.

Independent on Sunday, January 16, 2000, Maggie O'Farrell, review of The Big House.

Observer (London, England), January 16, 2000, Christina Patterson, review of The Big House, p. 13.

Time Out, July 30, 2004, Anna Scott, review of Ghost Girl.

Times Literary Supplement, January 14, 2000, Candice Rodd, review of The Big House, p. 27; June 11, 2004, Kate Salter, review of Ghost Girl.


Week, (April 4, 2002), review of The Big House.