One of the best of children's and fantasy
writers. She is gentle and sad, humorous and matter-of-fact, traditional and up-to-date. All adults who love the magical
should appreciate her stories.
She has written novels, the longest series of which is those set in an imaginary Jacobite nineteenth century, mainly featuring the feisty Cockney heroine Dido Twite: they include The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea, Night Birds on Nantucket, The Cuckoo Tree, The Stolen Lake, Dido and Pa, plus several more I haven't got around to reading, in an increasingly convoluted alternative history. There are wicked governesses, there are cannons that can fire across the Atlantic, and there are wicked plots to install Prince George of Hanover in place of good king James.
An early series of short stories was about the everyday magical lives of the Armitage family (children Harriet and Mark and unicorn Candleberry), which also included quite sad, wistful fairy stories. These collections, A Harp of Fishbones and A Small Pinch of Weather, are now very hard to come by: as if the publishers have not chosen to reprint them, or she has not let them be reprinted. I can't imagine why, in either case. It has always been one of my ambitions to write Armitage-style comic/fantastic stories,
and indeed some of my alternative identities on E2 are based on this idea. Some of them are set in a village whimsically called Loose Chippings.
Later series were of stories for younger children, usually illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, but these are still eminently rewarding for the adult with a child inside.
She also wrote horror and ghost short stories, and also writes adult stories, such as sequels to Jane Austen novels; however I can't comment on these last as I've never read them. Joan Delano Aiken was born on 4 September 1924 in Rye, in Sussex, the daughter of the American poet Conrad Aiken; and she died on 4 January 2004. She loved place, and music, and captured the spirits of back streets and old inns, especially in a unique place like Rye.