(1929- ) UK writer who remains best-known for her first novel, The L-Shaped Room (1960), set in contemporary London; it was filmed in 1962. As a fantasy writer LRB has concentrated on YA work, though The Farthest-Away Mountain (1976), in which a girl and a frog who was once a prince must seek the eponymous domain to break a bad Spell, is for a younger audience. The Omri sequence – The Indian in the Cupboard (1980), The Return of the Indian (1986), The Secret of the Indian (1989) and The Mystery of the Cupboard (1993) – focuses on a cupboard with a magic key. When a Toy figure – e.g., a toy Indian – is put inside the cupboard, it comes to life; or, rather, the key operates as a Time-Travel device which transports real persons into the 20th century, transforming them (> Bondage) into live toy-sized beings. Eventually Omri and his friends understand that the Metamorphoses to which they are subjecting real people – who tend at first to think they have died and entered an Afterlife populated by enormous, fitful gods – are indeed literal imprisonments. Using the key, the mortal protagonists themselves travel into the past. The later volumes of the series are gratifyingly complex as adventures and as examinations – cogently shaped for a young audience – of the moral consequences of action. The series was the basis for the US movie The Indian in the Cupboard (1995).
LRB's most impressive single work, Melusine: A Mystery (1988), subjects an adolescent boy to an enriching Rite of Passage into sexual awareness when he and his family spend the summer in a French château inhabited by a surly teenage girl whose powers of Metamorphosis are complexly interconnected with a shadowy pattern of enforced incest. [JC]
other works: The Adventure of King Midas (1974); I, Houdini: The Autobiography of a Self-Educated Hamster (1978); Maura's Angel (1984); The Fairy Rebel (1985).
Lynne Reid Banks