Susan Cooper

(Born 1935) – Writer, studied English at Somerville 1953-55

Susan Cooper grew up in Buckinghamshire and studied English at Somerville from 1953-1955, during which time she was the first woman to edit the undergraduate newspaper the Cherwell.

Following her time at Somerville, Cooper went on to work as an reporter for the Sunday times, whilst writing in her spare time. During this period, she began work on Under Sea Under Stone, the first story in her five-part series The Dark is Rising. She also published Mandrake in 1964, her second novel. In 1963, she moved to the United States to live with her husband Nicholas J. Grant, a professor of Metallurgy. Whilst living in America, she experienced very strong homesickness, which influenced her writing. 

Cooper was influenced by her headmistress at high school to go to Oxford. Although Cooper failed her Latin entrance exam, her headmistress convinced her to take another year to study Latin, and then retake the exam. After being tutored by the local vicar’s wife, she succeeded, and spent three years reading English at Somerville. When studying at Somerville, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were teaching in Oxford, and although she never met them, she attended lectures given by them. 

Read Susan Cooper’s reflection on her Oxford days

Did you know? When writing for the Sunday times, Cooper wrote for a column put together by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, who was just starting work on them.

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