Christina HardymentMy interests divide between a fascination with the historical background to our everyday lives – the way we run our homes and bring up our children, and the food we eat - and a love of literary geography: exploring the settings that inspired writers classic and modern. I’ve written eleven books on these subjects. The best known are Dream Babies: Childcare Advice from John Locke to Gina Ford and Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint’s Trunk (which resulted in my becoming Executor of the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate). I have also written a biography, Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur’s Chronicler. Writing this led to a deepening interest in the fifteenth century, and I'm now working on the second volume of Alyce: The Book of the Duchess.

My latest book, Novel Houses: Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings, will be published by the Bodleian Library in October 2019. It is a study of novels in which the place in which they are set is of pivotal importance. It begins with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and ends with Hogwarts School, visiting Wuthering Heights, Bleak House, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Howards End, Manderley, Brideshead, and Bilbo’s Bag End along the way.

It is my second book with Bodleian Publishing. The first was Writing The Thames, a survey of my favourite river’s literary connection. Published by the Bodleian Library in March 2016, it seems to have gone down well, with fine reviews in the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph.

I have just embarked upon a third book for Bodleian Publishing. It is provisionally called The Magician’s Conjuror, and it examines the relationships – some friendly, some fraught – between famous authors and their illustrators. Some of the latter are famous partnerships – Tenniel and Lewis Carroll, ‘Phiz’ and Dickens, Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl. but many are unfairly unknown. This book puts a spotlight on the creators of the illustrations that readers feel are inseparable from such much-loved books as Just William, The Wizard of Oz, Paddington Bear, The Famous Five, and The Borrowers.

I’ve also been commissioned to write a short Guidebook to Oxford for visitors to the city, one of a series by Bodleian Publishing.

The third of my literary anthologies for the British Library, Pleasures of Nature was published in February 2016. Pleasures of the Garden: A Literary Anthology was published by the British Library, in April 2014, and Pleasures of the Table in March 2015.

My second book about Arthur Ransome is The World of Arthur Ransome. part biography, part companion to all twelve books of the Swallows & Amazons saga, it was published by Frances Lincoln in October 2012. I have also had several audiobook anthologies published by Naxos, The Christmas Collection, Poetry for the Winter Season and The Pleasures of the Garden.

My books brought me a parallel career: that of being a journalist,  and broadcaster, using their subject matter as a springboard to writing diary and opinion columns in such newspapers as the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Times, and documentaries for radio. I also review books for various publications, and write a monthly column on audiobooks for The Times Saturday Review.

In 2016 I had a garden party to celebrate achieving three score years and ten, and age which gives me a wonderful sense of freedom and a determination to be myself.  My other excitement is the keeping of bees, under the direction of Dick Mayon-White, whose knowledge and calmness in handling these extraordinary little insects is an inspiration. He too loves the Thames, and his book Exploring the Thames Wilderness is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide to the nature reserves along the river.

In May 2016 Tilly and her family moved to Oxford, and as Ruby joined the Billings family in 2017, I now have eight of my ten grandchildren settled less than ten minutes away [yes, lots of baby-sitting]. Life is a wonderful balance between domesticity and venturing out and about. It's good to be able make time for them, and I'm lucky enough to have a wild garden and vast attic where they can let their imaginations run riot.

Three Score Years and Ten

 

Latest books

Novel Houses

Novel Houses: Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings

See all books

Writing the Thames

Writing The Thames: the Literature of the River

See all books