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Boston, Lucy Maria (1892–1990)

Boston, Lucy Maria (1892–1990)

British author of children's books. Born Lucy Maria Wood in Southport, Lancashire, England, on December 10, 1892; died in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire, England, on May 25, 1990; daughter and one of six children of James (an engineer) and Mary (Garrett) Wood; attended Somerville College, Oxford; married an officer in the Royal Flying Corps, in 1917 (marriage dissolved, 1935); children: one son, Peter.

Selected writings:

The Children of Green Knowe (illustrated by son Peter Boston, 1954); Yew Hall (1954); Treasure of Green Knowe (illus. by P. Boston, 1958); The River at Green Knowe (illus. by P. Boston, 1959); A Stranger at Green Knowe (illus. by P. Boston, 1961); An Enemy at Green Knowe (illus. by P. Boston, 1964); The Castle of Yew (illus. by Margery

Gill, 1965); The Sea Egg (illus. by P. Boston, 1967); The House that Grew (illus. by Caroline Hemming, 1969); Strongholds (1969); The Horned Man; or, Whom Will You Send to Fetch Her Away? (play, 1970); Nothing Said (illus. by P. Boston, 1971); (nonfiction) Memory of a House (1973); The Fossil Snake (illus. by P. Boston, 1975); The Stones of Green Knowe (illus. by P. Boston, 1976); (nonfiction) Perverse and Foolish (1979).

At age 62, Lucy Boston entered the literary world and, within a short time, distinguished herself in juvenile fiction. Most of her books (many of which were illustrated by her son Peter) were inspired by and set in her 12th-century manor house in Hemingford Grey, which, through extensive renovations, became her work of art.

Raised in a strict evangelical family, Boston recalled her early childhood as "a starvation of everything but hymns and sermons." Her father died when she was six, and several years later her mother's failing health necessitated a family move to the country, where Boston reveled in the wonders of nature and spent her free moments roaming the English countryside. After a year at a Quaker school in Surrey to eliminate her broad Lancashire accent, followed by finishing school in Paris, Boston entered Oxford, where she reportedly broke all the rules before leaving for London to train as a nurse. She served in a French hospital during World War I, then married an English officer and settled in Cheshire, England, where her son Peter was born. When the marriage dissolved in 1935, she left England to study painting in Italy and Austria. Returning to England just before World War II, Boston settled into the old Manor House at Hemingford Grey that she renovated from the ground up over a two-year period. Jasper Rose, author of a monograph on Boston, attributes her emergence as a writer to the house. "In some mysterious way," he writes, "Mrs. Boston's spirit has been nourished, calmed and enlarged by her house, and in a sense all her books commemorate her debt to it."

Most notable among Boston's work is the "Green Knowe" series, which includes A Stranger at Green Knowe, winner of the 1961 Carnegie Medal, and The Children of Green Knowe, winner of the 1969 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. The books of the series detail the mysterious, ancient house called Green Knowe and its inhabitants. Rose praises Boston for her subjects—ghosts, giants, escaped gorillas, and witches—and her exploration of real human predicaments, such as what it's like to be blind, to confront evil, or to withhold a secret from a loved one. When asked if there was a conscious difference in her writing for adults and children, Boston answered: "No, there is no difference of approach, style, vocabulary or standard. I could pick out passages from any of the books and you would not be able to tell what age it was aimed at."

Many of Boston's stories were reactions to events in her own life. The Sea Egg (1967) was triggered by the gift of a Cornish serpentine egg sent to her by a friend in memory of Kynance Cove, where the two had played as children. The award-winning A Stranger at Green Knowe (1961) was inspired by a newspaper photograph of Guy, a gorilla in the London Zoo; through the story, Boston expressed her concern over the zoo's supposition that animals actually prefer captivity to freedom. "The subject to me was a big one," she said. "I had to contain the whole force of my belief that all life, not merely human, must have respect, that a man-centered conception of it was false and crippling, that these other lives are the great riches of ours."

Boston continued to write well into her 80s. Her last book Perverse and Foolish: A Memoir of Childhood and Youth was published when she was 87. The author died after a stroke on May 25, 1990.

suggested reading:

Rose, Jasper. Lucy Boston. London: Bodley Head, 1965.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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