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Geoffrey Trease

Geoffrey Trease books and biography

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Italian Story From The Etruscans To Modern Times


By Geoffrey Trease
European History

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Geoffrey Trease

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Geoffrey Trease (August 11, 1909 - January 27, 1998), full name Robert Geoffrey Trease, was a prolific writer, publishing 113 books between 1934 (Bows Against the Barons) and 1997 (Cloak for a Spy). His work has been translated into 20 languages.

He is best known for writing children's historical novels, whose content reflects his insistence on historically correct backgrounds, which he meticulously researched. However, with his ground-breaking study Tales Out of School (1949), he was also a pioneer of the idea that children's literature should be a serious subject for study and debate. When he began his career, his radical viewpoint was a refreshing change from the conventional and often jingoistic tone of most children's literature of the time, and he was one of the first authors who deliberately set out to appeal to both boys and girls and to feature strong leading characters of both sexes.

Geoffrey was born in Nottingham in 1909. His family were wine merchants but from an early age Geoffrey decided that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps but instead would be a writer. During his school days at Nottingham High School he wrote stories, poems and a 3-act play which the school performed. He won a Classics scholarship to Oxford University and, although he loved university life, he found the tuition dull. After a year he resigned his scholarship and left Oxford for London, intent on becoming a writer. He started to fulfil this ambition with the publication of the children’s book, Bows Against the Barons in 1934.

This was the first of his many historical novels and heralded an approach to writing for young people that was quite radical. Through exciting plots, strong characters (female as well as male) and meticulous attention to detail, he introduced his readers to a historical event or period, enabling them to absorb history effortlessly. His sense of fairness and belief in equality for all is a theme explored in many of his books and, within their historical settings, the discerning reader will recognise many parallels with contemporary issues.

The stories range from Ancient Greece (Crown of Violet) to more recent times and cover (amongst others) the Middle Ages (The Red Towers of Granada), Elizabethan England (Cue for Treason, Cloak for a Spy), Restoration London (Fire on the Wind, Popinjay Stairs), the French Revolution (Thunder of Valmy), the Bolshevik Revolution (The White Nights of St Petersburg) and World War II (Tomorrow is a Stranger, The Arpino Assignment). Other exciting historical events of the 20th Century are covered in Bring Out the Banners, Shadow Under the Sea, Calabrian Quest and Song for a Tattered Flag.

Geoffrey also wrote modern school stories eg the five Black Banner novels set in the Lake District, adult novels, history, plays for radio and television, and biographies. He wrote three books of autobiography: A Whiff of Burnt Boats (1971), Laughter at the Door (1974), and in the last year of his life he wrote the final part, Farewell the Hills. This was written for his family and friends, and published privately after his death.

He had 113 books published before "deciding to call it a day" at the age of 88, through illness. Many were translated for foreign markets, including Asia and Europe. In the United States he won the New York Herald Tribune Book Award for the Children’s Spring Festival 1966 for This is Your Century.

He lived in Colwall, very near the Downs School, Great Malvern but spent the last few years of his life in Bath.



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