Emma Tennant

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The Honourable
Emma Tennant
Born Emma Christina Tennant
20 October 1937
London, England
Died 21 January 2017
London, England
Nationality British
Education St Paul's Girls' School
Occupation novelist and editor
Spouse(s) Christopher Booker (1963–1968)
Alexander Cockburn (1968–1973)
Tim Owens (2008–)
Children 3, including Matthew Yorke
Parent(s) Christopher Tennant, 2nd Baron Glenconner
Elizabeth Lady Glenconner (née Powell)
Relatives Edward Wyndham Tennant (uncle)
Stephen Tennant (uncle)
Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner (nephew)

Emma Christina Tennant FRSL (20 October 1937 – 21 January 2017) was a British novelist and editor. She was known for a postmodern approach to her fiction, which is often imbued with fantasy or magic.

Several of her novels give a feminist or dreamlike twist to classic stories such as Two Women of London: The Strange Case of Ms Jekyll and Mrs Hyde (from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). She also published work under the name Catherine Aydy.[1]

Early life

Tennant was of Scottish extraction, the daughter of Christopher Grey Tennant, 2nd Baron Glenconner, and Elizabeth Lady Glenconner (née Powell).[2] She remembered her father as a mix of rage and benevolence. She was the niece of Edward Wyndham Tennant and Stephen Tennant, and the half-sister of Colin Tennant, later the third Baron Glenconner, from her father's first marriage.

Born in London, she spent the World War II years at the family's faux Gothic mansion The Glen in Peeblesshire.[3] Her parents were regularly absent, while The Glen "was the strangest possible place. I knew no other world at all until I was nine".[4] The family then resettled in London. Tennant was educated at St Paul's Girls' School, but left when she was fifteen. She spent some time at an Oxford finishing school, studying languages and the history of art, and a year in Paris at The Lourve.[3]


Tennant worked as a travel writer for Queen magazine and an editor for Vogue.[3] Her first novel, The Colour of Rain, was published under a pseudonym when she was twenty-six. Submitted to the Spanish Prix Formentor, the response of the chair of the judges, the Italian novelist Alberto Moravia meant that she suffered writer's block for some years afterwards. According to Tennant, he "tossed my book into a wastepaper basket and declared, 'This book stands for the decadence of British contemporary culture'."[3][4] It was not until 1973 that her second novel, The Time of the Crack, was first published. Between 1975 and 1979, she edited a literary magazine, Bananas, which helped launch the careers of several young novelists.

A large number of books by Tennant followed: thrillers, children’s books, fantasies, and several revisionist takes on classic novels, including a sequel to Pride and Prejudice called Pemberley. In later years, she began to treat her own life in such books as Girlitude and Burnt Diaries (both published in 1999), the second of which details her affair with Ted Hughes.[3] "He was so odd – to put it mildly", she wrote.[4] The French Dancer's Bastard, which recounts the life of Adele, the daughter of Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre, was published in October 2006. The Autobiography of the Queen, written with Hilary Bailey, was published in October 2007.

Personal life

Tennant was married four times, including to the journalist and author Christopher Booker between 1963 and 1968 and the political writer Alexander Cockburn between 13 December 1968 and 1973. She had a son, the author Matthew Yorke, from her first marriage, plus two daughters. Daisy, from her marriage to Cockburn teaches the Alexander technique, while Rose Dempsey, from a relationship with publisher Michael Dempsey, works for the Serpentine Galleries.[4] A lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, in April 2008 she married her partner of 33 years, Tim Owens, saying it was not, or not only, for tax policies introduced by the government of Gordon Brown.[5]

Emma Tennant died on 21 January 2017, in a London hospital, from posterior cortical atrophy, a form of Alzheimer’s disease.[3][6]

Selected bibliography


  • The Colour of Rain (as Catherine Aydy), London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964.
  • The Time of the Crack, London: Cape, 1973; as The Crack, London: Penguin, 1978.
  • The Last of the Country House Murders, London: Cape, 1974; NewYork, Nelson, 1976.
  • Hotel de Dream, London: Gollancz, 1976.
  • The Bad Sister, London: Gollancz; New York: Coward McCann, 1978.
  • Wild Nights, London: Cape, 1979; New York: Harcourt Brace, 1980.
  • Alice Fell, London: Cape, 1980.
  • Queen of Stones, London: Cape, 1982.
  • Woman Beware Woman, London" Cape, 1983; as The Half-Mother, Boston: Little Brown, 1985.
  • Black Marina, London: Faber: 1985.
  • The Adventures of Robina, by Herself, London: Faber, 1986; New York:, Persea, 1987. Series: The Cycle of the Sun The House of Hospitalities, London: Viking, 1987.
  • A Wedding of Cousins, London: Viking, 1988.
  • The Magic Drum, London: Viking, 1989.
  • Two Women of London: The Strange Case of Ms. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde, London: Faber, 1989.
  • Sisters and Strangers, London: Grafton, 1990.
  • Faustine, London: Faber: 1991.
  • Pemberley; or, Pride and Prejudice Continued, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993; as Pemberley: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1993.
  • Tess, London: HarperCollins, 1993.
  • An Unequal Marriage; or, Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years Later, London: Sceptre; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.
  • Travesties, London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1995.
  • Emma in Love: Jane Austen's Emma Continued, London: Fourth Estate, 1996.


  • Strangers: A Family Romance, New York" New Directions, 1999.
  • Burnt Diaries, Edinburgh: Canongate, 1999.


  1. ^ Peter Lewis, updated by Judson Knight, "Emma (Christina) Tennant Biography", JRank.
  2. ^ Wilson, Frances (31 January 2017). "Emma Tennant obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Grimes, William (29 January 2017). "Emma Tennant, Who Wrote Beyond the Fringe of Realism, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d "Emma Tennant". The Times. 24 January 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  5. ^ Smith, David (20 April 2008). "How Gordon got Emma to the altar...33 years late". The Observer. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  6. ^ Eyre, Charlotte. "Author Emma Tennant dies". Locus Online News. Retrieved 10 February 2017.

External links

  • Literary Encyclopedia article on Emma Tennant
  • Canongate Books biography of Emma Tennant
  • Emma Tennant bibliography
  • Lesley McDowell, "Two sides to every story - Emma Tennant Interview", The Scotsman, 31 July 2008.
  • Dee O'Connell, This much I know - Emma Tennant, The Observer, 3 November 2002.
  • David Smith, "How Gordon got Emma to the altar...33 years late", The Observer, 20 April 2008.
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