31 Aug 2012
Nina Bawden née Mabey (Mrs Kark) came up to Somerville in 1943, intending to read French, but quickly switched to PPE. She was made an Honorary Fellow of Somerville in 2001. She died on 22 August, aged 87.
Nina Bawden is regarded as one of few modern novelists to write successfully for both adults and children and her work is admired for its insightful depictions of childhood and complicated family relationships. In all, she published 23 adult novels and 20 children's books. For much of her life she produced a book a year.
Her most famous book, Carrie's War, published in 1973 and subsequently added to the school curriculum, was based on her own World War II evacuation to South Wales.
The Peppermint Pig won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize in 1976.
In 1987 she was nominated for the Booker Prize for Circles of Deceit; this book and Family Money, one of the books she liked best, were both televised and both drew on her own family experiences. She wrote an autobiography called In my Own Time, but, as she said, in all her writing she liked "making use of all my life, all memory, wasting nothing."
In 2002 her second husband, Austen Kark, was killed in the Potters Bar train crash and Nina herself was badly injured. Nina campaigned vigorously to get answers after the accident from Network Rail and their contractor Jarvis and in 2005 published Dear Austen, an impassioned letter to her dead husband.
Nina was always very interested in politics and a life-long socialist. However, in her disgust with Government non-action over Potters Bar, she cut up her Labour party card and sent the pieces to party headquarters.
Nina was appointed CBE in 1995 and in 2004 she won an International PEN award for a lifetime's achievement. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2010 The Birds in the Trees (1970) received a retrospective shortlisting among half a dozen titles for the Lost Man Booker Prize.
Nina was guest of honour and speaker at two Literary Lunches at Somerville.
Her granddaughter, Jessica, is also Somervillian (English, 1988).