Sunday 30 January 2011

Eva Ibbotson

It may surprise you to learn that my favourite author (in the whole wide world) is Eva Ibbotson.
Is, I say, even though, on October 20, 2010, she died.

The thing is, it came as a complete shock to me to read the word Obituary alongside her name, because she wasn't supposed to die. Ever. Or at least not yet. Thirteen years I've been dredging up the courage to write to her, and failing miserably, because all I wanted to say was "I love you!" "You make me so happy!" And other toe-curling embarrassments.

And then a few days ago, I did what I've been doing for years - I 'searched' for her, online. And... I know. It's not about me. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother. But I loved her all the same. She always wrote happy endings for her children's books, inspite of, or maybe because of her own childhood landscape of Hitler, and leaving Vienna, her parents' divorce and living with elderly (moustachioed) aunts; her adult romances are the essence of poetry, but practical, in the way only women can be. And when I was 18, and lupus had just confined me to bed, my father scoured the Little Shelford library, and the book he discovered and carefully brought home to me, was A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson.

She had lupus too, you know. Only she was 80 when it struck. And it made her snarky in interviews. (My love for her only deepened at this point, as you can imagine.)

So why, oh why, didn't I write to her?

I think... I didn't write... just in case... she didn't write back.

And I realise I have tried to be amusing, because she always was, because this is not an obituary. But I am only pretending. The truth is, I am grieving, for someone who was never really mine. But her words are with me, which is all that matters. Right? At least, that is what I shall tell myself, for the rest of my life. Is there anyone you wish you could have written to? Is there anyone you did write to? And, if so, was it a good idea?

"You read what you've written, and you realise that something is still there. Because, you know, you see yourself tottering around, dropping china, having to go to bed at eight, but somehow something of your self remains, and you have written it." - Eva Ibbotson

I love you Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner, otherwise known as Eva Ibbotson! You make me sooooo happy!!!


Anonymous said...

You may enjoy listening to this radio programme. It was broadcast yesterday on radio 4 - its focus is J D Salinger's fan mail. But it talks more broadly (in a fascinating way) about why and when people write to writers they love or who have impacted their lives in a profound way....

Ruth said...

She most certainly is yours, and now you have given me Eva Ibbotson (for I did not have her before).

The heart is supple and vulnerable and latches on to the familiar, I think. I have been grieving for you in pain, and so I see your grief over losing Ibbotson as lupus grief. The possibility of connecting with this artist who gave you living and breathing joy upon your own illness's embarkment, and then herself was ridden by it herself, must have been a beautiful hope within you while she lived. It must be grief indeed, in the presence of your close companion, pain, to say good-bye to her.

I hope her spirit will come to you and say, "I love you . . . you make me so happy!" Because of course, she does, and you do.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh, how sad. She looks and sounds like a wonderful human being, and writer. I will soon read her Company of Swans, never fear! I love her quote about tottering around and going to bed at eight, but knowing her books stand, so something of her remains. You will cherish her words even more now. I am waiting for the WRETCHED postal system to cough up its packages at your door. Grrrrr! I could have ROWED it over faster:)

Shaista said...

anonymous - thankyou so much. it would be nice to know who you are although then i suppose you would not be anonymous...

Shaista said...

Ruth - as ever, you see inside. I nearly wrote that connection, but instinctively knew I wouldn't need to, because my readers, my Ruths, would read the sound in my silence. While I was writing, I was thinking about the revolution in Egypt, and wondering what my small pebble of grief had to do with anything. But I heed your advice, and keep writing.

Shaista said...

Sherry - I don't think she can become dearer to me now she's dead. In fact, I shall have to try not to be cross with her! And as for your magical packages, I feel sure they will arrive on the day I most need to see them :)

* said...

Oh, this pains my heart, "I didn't write... just in case... she didn't write back."

I have lived parts of my life that way, and have regretted it, however putting ones heart/life/words out there is a feat, as well, a walk of faith, one that I am not always strong enough (or able) to do.

Thank you for the sweet introduction to Eva, I can imagine the kindred spirit you must have found in her.

Marion said...

Just stopping by to say hello. your post was insightful as your writing always is.

Rebecca-Books said...

The thing for me about Eva Ibbotson is that I only discovered her a couple of months ago. Yes, I had seen her books on the shelves but I'd never...really looked at them.
It's sad because she was such a great author for all ages. But she was 80 - a good age.

This is so beautifully written by the way :)

Tiffany Kadani said...

Such a sweet tribute. She sounds like she was absolutely wonderful.

Yin said...

Just a few months before I arrived in the promised land, Gerald Durrell passed away. Was very miffed to find out as I thought he'd already passed away. Having later read his biographies I thought well never mind because I mainly would only have been able to say wow I love your writing. And I realised that he'd probably only really be interested if I was an exotic animal. :)

Then at uni, a classmate at college turned out to be Terry Pratchett's daughter. And on finding out I was struck dumb and couldn't bring myself to actively be-friend her for fear I was sucking up. Damn.

And then, a few years ago we found out that Bill Bryson had a pied a terre on the street where we lived. When I told my sister she nicked all my Bryson books and posted them through his letterbox with a plea for him to autograph them, and a white lie saying she'd spotted him in the street but didn't want to invade his privacy (hah!). (I spotted and recognised him! And trailed him, not totally stalkingly, really, to the right flat!) And he did! And he wrote a kind note accompanying them and dropped them back in our letterbox! And then my sister stole my books. (Of course he addressed them to her.)

So. I no longer think to contact writers.

RNSANE said...

I haven't written to an author but I did send an email to a lovely local jazz singer that I saw about six years ago. By chance, I bought her CD because it had a song, "On a San Francisco High," written by her husband and I was preparing a gift basket for a friend who was visiting our fair city. I loved the CD and got one for myself. Six months later, I saw her perform, sent her an email and the rest is history. I became a devout fan and we became fast friends, corresponding, meeting for lunch and drinks. I was so sad when she and her husband, Jerry, moved to L. A. They continue to be successful and do get back to San Francisco to perform from time to time.

Rane Anderson said...

I loved Eva Ibbotson too. I remember hearing about it I think the day after it happened (somehow!) and posted about it on my blog. I have only read 4 of her books (the ones they sell at Banes and Noble)
-The Morning Gift
-Reluctant Heiress
-Countess Below Stairs
-A Company of Swans
I read one of her books on a road trip from Seattle to LA--and that trip just FLEW right by. If you want to read my tribute to Eva Ibbotson, visit the link below:

I really fell in love with her storytelling. And know what you mean. One of my favorite authors--Madeleine Brent (who I have a really great feeling that you will love these books too) is really a pen name for Peter O'Donnell. Well, I wanted to write to him for years, and then forgot about it for a while. In that time frame of "forgetting about it" he passed away:-( Oh well, that's life. But, these authors will live on in their stories. It's like having a piece of them in our house with us always.

Anonymous said...

I love you. for loving Eva Ibbotson so much and writing about her in such a fascinating manner. She is my favourite author too. Always will be. As a writer, I learnt more from her books than from anyone else's and plus, she was just such a super fabulous person. :)

I have written to a lot of authors to tell them I enjoyed their work and trust me, writers love hearing from their fans. Specially since writing is such a lonely job. I should know, I am one of them. :)


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