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Literature / The Marlow Series

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A series of ten books by Antonia Forest, about a family of eight children (six girls and two boys) beginning with the two youngest girls, Nicola and Lawrie, starting their first term at the girls' school Kingscote that all four of their older sisters go to, continuing over the next two and a half years (book time) with four novels set at Kingscote and six novels set in the holidays, mostly at the Marlows' ancestral home Trennels.

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The novels were published between 1948 and 1982, and each novel is set in the time in which it was written and published: so in the early novels World War II is a very recent memory, but by The Attic Term (1976) the schoolgirls at Kingscote are watching Star Trek in their TV hour.

Books in the series:

Conveniently, the order of publication is also the chronological order of the series.

  1. Autumn Term (1948)
  2. The Marlows and the Traitor (1953)
  3. Falconer's Lure (1957)
  4. End of Term (1959)
  5. Peter's Room (1961)
  6. The Thuggery Affair (1965)
  7. The Ready-Made Family (1967)
  8. The Cricket Term (1974)
  9. The Attic Term (1976)
  10. Run Away Home (1982)

Antonia Forest said she was working on a sequel to Run Away Home, but when she died in 2003, no manuscript was found in her papers.

Forest also wrote two novels about the Marlow family set in Elizabethan times, in which a boy called Nicholas seems to be a male avatar of Nicola Marlow in modern Elizabethan times. Although they were published after The Ready-Made Family, references to characters and events from the two novels are found in that novel and in The Cricket Term.

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  1. The Player's Boy (1970)
  2. The Players and the Rebels (1971)


The Marlow Series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Pet the Dog: In Autumn Term Lois Sanger, the Marlow twins' arch nemesis, who gets them both kicked out of Guides earlier in the book, and makes trouble for Nicola Marlow later on in the series. Their form opt to put on a production of The Prince and the Pauper for the school festival, and Tim Keith, who writes the play, wants to narrate. However, Tim is terrible and Lawrie Marlow panics about the play being a failure. Tim remembers hearing that Lois is a good reader, and when she shows her the script, Lois is impressed with it and offers to do the narration herself, effectively saving the play.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Nicola and Lawrie Marlow - physically identical but very unalike in character, personality, mannerisms, and talents.
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  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: Nicola Marlow is a passionate and involved reader. She's stricken by the end of Flying Colours, enjoys Ramage because he knew Hornblower, reads The Cruel Sea because it's about the Navy, reads Hakluyt because it's in her family library, and reads Persuasion because she's been told every other male character is in the Navy. She also discovers and relishes Mary Renault's The Mask Of Apollo in her local library in 1974. One novel in the series, Peter's Room is structured as an exploration of the Brontë sisters invention of an imaginary world. How many readers of the Marlow books were led to read Hornblower because Forester was right next to Forest on the shelves?
  • School Play: In three out of the four school novels the School Play is an important plot strand - Lawrie Marlow, the youngest of the Marlow children, is discovered to have an astonishing talent for acting in her form's performance of The Prince and the Pauper in Autumn Term, in End of Term she plays St Stephen in the school nativity play, and The Cricket Term a plot strand turns on her being given the part of Ariel and wanting to do Caliban in The Tempest. And in Run Away Home, Lawrie plays a monkey in another child's school play.

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