History Remarkable Women

Eva Ibbotson (Remarkable Women #2)

Early Life

Eva Maria Charlotte Michelle Ibbotson ( née Wiesner), commonly known as Eva Ibbotson, was born on 21 January 1925 in Vienna to Jewish parents who didn’t practice their religion. Her father, Dr Bertold Paul Wiesner, was a pioneering physician in human infertility treatment (he is believed to have sired 600 of the children his clinic helped to be born). Her mother, Anna Wilhelmine Gmeyner, was a successful novelist and playwright, who had worked with German playwright Bertolt Brecht and written film scripts for director Georg Pabst.

The family relocated to Scotland in 1926 after Eva’s father accepted a post at the University of Edinburgh. Her parents seperated in 1928 and three-year old Eva followed her mother to Berlin.

A very cosmopolitan, sophisticated and quite interesting, but also very unhappy childhood, always on some train and wishing to have a home

Eva’s recalling of her childhood years

In 1933 her mother moved to Paris after Hitler banned her writing work while Eva was sent to her grandparents in Vienna. Her mother met and married Russian philosopher Jascha Morduch while residing in Paris.

In 1934 Eva left Vienna and joined her mother and stepfather who had settled in Belzide Park, England. The experience of fleeing Vienna had a strong presence in Eva’s life and writing career.

Wiesner attended Dartington Hall School which was the inspiration for Delderton Hall in her novel The Dragonfly Pool. Her original plan was to become a physiologist like her father and so she earned an undergraduate degree from Bedford College, London, in 1945. During her postgraduate studies at Cambridge University she met her future husband, ecologist Alan Ibbotson.


Eva married Alan in 1947 and moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where they raised their three sons and one daughter.

The gruesome thought of conducting experiments on animals as a career made her discontinue her pursuit of a career in scientific research. She returned to college and graduated in 1965 from the University of Durham with a diploma in education. She then had a brief teaching career before embarking on her writing journey.

Alan died in 1998 and Eva was too sad to write in her usual humorous style. She wrote the ecological classic Journey to the Sea soon after in honour of her late husband, a naturalist.

Writing career

Ibbotson began her writing with television drama Linda Came Today which broadcasted in December 1962.

She wrote more than a dozen children’s books which included Which Witch?, The Secret of Platform 13, Dial-a-Ghost, Monster Mission, Journey to the River Sea, The Star of Kazan, The Beasts of Clawstone Castle, the Dragonfly Pool and Great Ghost Rescue (her first English-language book).

She won the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize for Journey to the River Sea and was a runner up for major awards in British children’s literature several times.

Her children’s books are imaginative and humorous in nature, often featuring magical creatures and places. Ibbotson disliked the supernatural and admitted she created the characters to diminish the reader’s fear of those things. Her antagonists often displayed financial greed and lust for power as she hated those characteristics.

Beside her children’s books Ibbotson was also known for her adult fiction. Several of her adult books have been reissued in the young adult section some of which with different titles. Three of those 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)

In 1992 Ibbotson’s writing took a new direction when she moved away from the romance genre. Two of her most acclaimed books are set in Europe at the time of World War II and reflect her experience of the time. The first of which, Morning Gift (1993), became a best-seller. Her last adult book Song for Summer (1997) was also set in World War II.

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


Eva died at her home in Newcastle on 20 October 2010 after having completed the editing of her last children’s book, One Dog and his Boy, and starting work on another ghost story to add to her long and successful series of children’s ghost stories

Published works

Children’s fiction

  • The Great Ghost Rescue (1975)
  • Which Witch? (1979)
  • The Worm & the Toffee Nosed Princess (1983)
  • The Haunting of Hiram C. Hopgood (1987)
  • Not Just a Witch (1989)
  • The Secret of Platform 13 (1994)
  • Dial-a-Ghost (1996)
  • Monster Mission (1999) and later in the US, Island of the Aunts (2001)
  • Journey to the River Sea (2001)
  • The Star of Kazan (2004)
  • The Beasts of Clawstone Castle (2005)
  • The Haunting of Hiram (2008)
  • The Dragonfly Pool (2008)
  • The Ogre of Oglefort (2010)
  • One Dog and his Boy (2010)
  • The Abominables (2012) published posthumously

Adult and young adult fiction

  • A Countess Below Stairs (1981) later, The Secret Countess (2007)
  • Magic Flutes (1982); later, The Reluctant Heiress (2009)
  • A Glove Shop in Vienna and other Stories (1984), a collection
  • A Company of Swans (1985)
  • Madensky Square (1988)
  • The Morning Gift (1993)
  • A Song for Summer (1997)

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