Eva Ibbotson

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Eva Ibbotson : biography

21 January 1925 – 20 October 2010

The books are imaginative and humorous, and most of them feature magical creatures and places. Ibbotson has said that she disliked thinking about the supernatural, and created the characters because she wanted to decrease her readers’ fear of such things. Some of the books, particularly Journey to the River Sea, also reflect Ibbotson’s love of nature. She wrote Journey in honor of her husband, a former naturalist who had just died; the book had been in her head for years. Ibbotson had said she disliked "financial greed and a lust for power", and often created antagonists in her books who have these characteristics.

Her love of Austria is evident in works such as The Star of Kazan, A Song For Summer and Magic Flutes/The Reluctant Heiress. These books, set primarily in the Austrian countryside, display the author’s love of nature.

Adult books

Ibbotson was also noted for several works of fiction for adults. Several have been reissued successfully for the young-adult market, some under different titles. Ibbotson was surprised by the repackaging, as she believed they were books for adults, but they have been very popular with teenage audiences. Three are The Secret Countess (originally published as A Countess Below Stairs), A Company of Swans, and Magic Flutes (in some editions published as The Reluctant Heiress).

Ibbotson’s writing for adults and teens took a new direction in 1992, when she began to move away from romantic novels. Two of her acclaimed books are set in Europe at the time of World War II and reflect her experience of the time. The first of this setting, The Morning Gift (1993), became a bestseller. Her last novel for adults was A Song For Summer (1997), also set during World War II.

Personal life

Eva Ibbotson was born Eva Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner in Vienna, Austria in 1925 to non-practising Jewish parents. Her father, Berthold P. Wiesner, was a physician who pioneered human infertility treatment. He became a controversial figure, as he is now believed to have used his own sperm to sire perhaps 600 of the children his clinic helped to be born. Her mother, Anna Gmeyner, was a successful novelist and playwright. She had worked with Bertolt Brecht and written film scripts for G. W. Pabst.

Ibbotson’s parents separated in 1928. What followed for Eva was a " very cosmopolitan, sophisticated and quite interesting, but also very unhappy childhood, always on some train and wishing to have a home," as she later recalled. Her father took up a university lectureship in Edinburgh. Her mother left Berlin for Paris in 1933 after her work was banned by Hitler, putting a sudden end to her successful writing career. In 1934 she settled in Belsize Park in North London, and sent for her daughter. Other family members also escaped from Vienna and joined Anna and Maria in London, avoiding the worst of the Nazi regime, which had already affected the family. The experience of fleeing Vienna was a strong thread throughout Ibbotson’s life and work.

Eva Wiesner attended Dartington Hall School, which she later fictionalised as Delderton Hall in her novel The Dragonfly Pool (2008). Originally she intended to become a physiologist like her father, and earned an undergraduate degree from Bedford College, London, in 1945. She found the thought of spending her life conducting experiments on animals appalled her. While studying at Cambridge University, she met her future husband, Alan Ibbotson, a university professor and entomologist.

Film and television

  • Ibbotson wrote Linda Came Today (1962) for television
  • In 1978, she wrote Der Große Karpfen Ferdinand und andere Weihnachtsgeschichten for German television.

In 2004 Enda Walsh was adapting Island of the Aunts for a feature film. Adam Dawtrey, , Variety, 28 July 2004.

  • A film adaptation of The Great Ghost Rescue was completed in 2011, directed by the French Yann Samuell.. IMDB.