Novelist and children’s author Jill Paton Walsh has died at the age of 83, her agent has confirmed. The London-born writer won numerous awards for her children’s books, including The Whitbread Prize in 1974 for The Emperor’s Winding Sheet.
She self-published her third novel, Knowledge of Angels, after failing to find a UK publisher – it went on to be shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize. Jill Paton Walsh received a CBE for services to literature in 1996. She was born Gillian Bliss in 1937 and was educated in North Finchley, London, before graduating from St Anne’s College, Oxford. She went on to teach English at a grammar school in Enfield, north London, for three years between 1959 and 1962. In 1961 she married Anthony Paton Walsh and they had three children although the couple later split.
Paton Walsh embarked on her career writing children’s fiction, including some of her best-known works, Fireweed, Unleaving, A Parcel of Patterns, and Gaffer Samson’s Luck, all published in the 70s and 80s. Her later adult novels included Lapsing (1986), The Serpentine Cave (1997), and A Desert in Bohemia (2000). She was also known for continuing the work of Dorothy L Sayers with her Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane’s stories. Jill also created several picture books for small children, including When I Was Little Like You, Connie Came to Play, and When Grandma Came.