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Paton Walsh, Jill

Entry updated 2 November 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1937-2020) UK author, partner from the early 1970s of John Rowe Townsend; they were married from 2004 until his death in 2014. Much of her fiction was for Young Adult readers; she also wrote several nonfantastic detective novels [not listed below] including the Imogen Quy series set in a fictional University of Cambridge college, and four authorized Sequels by Another Hand to the Lord Peter Wimsey sequence by Dorothy L Sayers (1893-1957), the first – Thrones, Dominations (1998) – being based on abandoned fragments and notes by Sayers.

Of Paton Walsh's work of sf/fantasy interest, Toolmaker (1974) is Prehistoric SF; A Chance Child (1978) is a Timeslip tale whose young protagonist, shifted out of an unhappy life in the present, finds the nineteenth century even more difficult to cope with, and is in fact invisible to adults (see Invisibility) until he is able to laugh out loud and join his fellows; the family featured in The Green Book (1981; vt Shine 1988 chap), after being forced to leave an Earth facing destruction after a great Disaster, travel in an Faster Than Light Spaceship the apparently uninhabited planet Shine, where the flora are crystalline and the fauna – for sentient Alien life is soon found there – are made of rock; but a clement co-inhabiting of the planet (see Colonization of Other Worlds) is achieved. Torch (1987) is set in a seemingly clement Ruined Earth world, and traces its young protagonists attempts to find the true home of the torch they are assigned to bear; it turns out to be the Olympic torch, which responds (by flaring or flickering) to good and evil in the humans around it, and through which they learn about the ancient world of its origin. Knowledge of Angels (1994), an adult book with no literally fantastic element, describes the raising in total isolation of an enfant sauvage by monks inhabiting the mysterious Island of Graninsula, in the hope that this experiment will tell them if knowledge of God is learned or innate.

Paton Walsh's seriousness of intent, and the ethical dilemmas she investigated through her varied venues, made her fantastic books both luminous and, at times, slightly waterlogged with meaning. [JC]

Gillian Paton Walsh

born London: 29 April 1937

died Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: 18 October 2020

works (selected)

  • Toolmaker (London: Heinemann, 1974) [hb/]
  • A Chance Child (London: Macmillan, 1978) [hb/]
  • The Green Book (London: Macmillan, 1981) [illus/hb/Joanna Stubbs]
    • Shine (London: Macdonald, 1988) [chap: vt of the above: pb/]
  • Torch (London: Viking Kestrel, 1987) [hb/Chris Molan]
  • Knowledge of Angels (Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Green Bay, 1994) [hb/]


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