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Mary Norton

Mary Norton (1903 – 1992), was born in London, the only girl in a family of five children. She was brought up in the Manor House in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, which later became the setting fof her most famous book, The Borrowers. She was educated at convent schools and, after a brief and unsuccessful time as a secretary, she became an actress. She was a member of the Old Vic Theatre Company for two years and always thought of herself more an actress than a writer. She remembered her most thrilling moment as the time she first went on stage as an understudy at the Old Vic. She gave up the theatre when she got married and went to live with her husband in Portugal. There her two sons and two daughters were born, and she began to write.

When war broke out in 1939, Mary’s husband joined the Navy and she brought her children back to England via the United States – she lived there for a while waiting for a passage home. She returned to the stage in 1943. The Borrowers was published in 1952 and won her the Carnegie Medal, the most important prize in children’s fiction. The story was based on fantasies from her childhood when her short-sightedness made her aware of the teeming life in the countryside around her. C S Lewis, the author of the Narnia books, wrote to her in 1956: “May a stranger write his thanks and congratulations for The Borrowers and The Borrowers Afield? They have given me great and (I anticipate) lasting pleasure…”. Films and TV series continue to bring new generations of children to Mary Norton’s books.

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