(1942-1987) UK writer whose first genre fiction of interest was the remarkable Tom Ass, or The Second Gift (1972), a Beast Fable set in medieval England. Young Tom is given two gifts by an Elf-lady: whatever he begins to do at dawn he will continue to do all day; and he will "be" whatever his future wife decides he will be. The first gift means that certain activities (like counting money) generate riches; the second, after he has been turned into an Ass, necessitates a Night Journey in the company of his competent future wife to London, where he eventually Learns Better, demonstrates his human value to her, and becomes her human husband. Nothing else AL wrote had quite the glow of this tale, though The Half-Brothers (1973), set in Faerie, tells a Fairytale-like story with happy conviction: once again, it presents a marriage-choice, and a strong young woman makes the correct decision.
In The Conjuror's Box (1974) two children find themselves the keepers of a Liminal Being who has been imprisoned (see Bondage) as a china jug; under the direction of this being, and of a mysterious Fiddler, they are involved in a struggle to prevent the subversion of real Toys and proper childhood, a Thinning caused by the malign influence of the Green Lady, an evil survival of the Elder Gods who has retreated through the eponymous box – which is a Portal – into an Alternate World. The book, like Alan Garner's Elidor (1963) and Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence, sophisticatedly draws from the Cauldron of Story, and the text is resonant with echoes and refigured Plot Devices.
The eponymous imp of The Good Little Devil (1978) is initially tamed by the monks who discover him, but is ultimately given his moral freedom again. The Hawk of May (1980), which concerns Gawain, and Merlin the Wizard (coll of linked stories 1986) are Arthurian tales (see Arthur). Summer's End: Stories of Ghostly Lovers (coll of linked stories 1987) imparts an autumnal tone to a sequence of Supernatural Fictions about growing up, told via the Frame Story to some feisty adolescent siblings. Beyond the Firelight (coll 1983), collecting Arabian Fantasies, and Tales from Perrault (trans coll 1988), modernizing Charles Perrault, are both competent exercises in the Twice-Told. There is a risk that AL's early death may condemn her work to obscurity. [JC]
other works: The Oggy the Hedgehog sequence for younger readers, comprising The Travels of Oggy (1973), Oggy at Home (1977) and Oggy and the Holiday (1979); Mr Robertson's Hundred Pounds (1976); Between the Forest and the Hills (1977); There and Back Again (coll 1985).
Ann Margaret Lawrence