Picture of author.

Barbara Comyns (1907–1992)

Author of Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

12 Works 2,757 Members 105 Reviews 25 Favorited

About the Author

Works by Barbara Comyns

The Vet's Daughter (1959) 576 copies
The Juniper Tree (1985) 264 copies
Sisters by a River (1947) 234 copies
The Skin Chairs (1962) 154 copies
A Touch of Mistletoe (1967) 118 copies
The House of Dolls (1989) 84 copies
Mr Fox (1987) 50 copies
Birds in Tiny Cages (1964) 14 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Comyns, Barbara
Legal name
Comyns Carr, Barbara Irene Veronica
Other names
Bayley, Barbara Irene Veronica (birth)
Date of death
Burial location
St Andrew's Churchyard, Stanton upon Hine Heath, Shropshire, England, UK
Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England, UK
Place of death
Stanton upon Hine Heath, Shropshire, England, UK
Places of residence
Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England, UK
Twickenham, Middlesex, England, UK
Ibiza, Spain
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
San Roque, Andalusia, Spain
London, England, UK
Heatherley School of Fine Art
antique furniture dealer
old car dealer
poodle breeder
Pemberton, John (1st husband)
Carr, Richard Comyns (2nd husband)
Short biography
Barbara Comyns was the pen name of Barbara Comyns Carr, née Barbara Irene Veronica Bayley, born 27 December 1907 at the family estate of Bell Court, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, the fourth among six children (five girls and one boy) of a Birmingham brewer and industrialist. She was educated by governesses and began to write and illustrate stories by age 10. Following the death of her father, she went to London to attend the Heatherley School of Fine Art. In 1931, she married John Pemberton, a painter, with whom she had two children. The couple moved in artistic and literary circles that included Augustus John and Dylan Thomas. After a divorce, she supported herself and her children by various jobs such as trading antiques and classic cars, modeling, breeding dogs, renovating apartments, and working as a cook in a private house. Some of these activities were featured in her 1987 novel, Mr. Fox. In 1945, she remarried to Richard Comyns Carr, who worked in the Foreign Office. Barbara's first published book was the semi-autobiographical novel Sisters by the River (1947), based on her childhood. Her next novel, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950), was based on her first marriage. Others among her 11 novels were Who was Changed and Who was Dead (1955), The Vet’s Daughter (1959), The Skin Chairs (1962), and The Juniper Tree (1985). Out of the Blue into the Red (1960) was a nonfiction book about Spain, where she and Comyns Carr lived for 18 years. The Vet's Daughter was adapted by BBC radio and also became a 1978 musical called The Clapham Wonder.



I've never read *******; where should I start? in Virago Modern Classics (January 2014)


I finally finished this short book. I delayed finishing it because I knew that when I was done, so was my mother. I know that might sound strange, but I started this book on January 10th. On January 13th my mother (who has been in palliative care since March 2023) took to her bed and was never to leave it alive. My 95-year-old mother passed away peacefully on January 20th, my birthday. I stayed at her house during that last week, reading bits of the book at night, and being surprised by two coincidences between the book and what was happening. 1) The protagonist's name is Bella, my mother's middle name. 2) There is a character in the book whose mother dies in childbirth, so his birthday will always be the day of his mother's death. After my mother passed away, we went through the burial and week-long mourning period and each night I tried to read The Juniper Tree but fell asleep after a page or two. It was as if I didn't want to finish it, because then I would know that my mother was really gone. Well, I just finished it. And she's really gone.

BTW, the book is a weird fairytale retelling of the Grimm story of the same name. The story is unusual, but I don't want to spoil anything. One plot development near the end of the novel was a sudden and not fully believable shock, but the denouement was satisfying.
… (more)
booksinbed | 7 other reviews | Jan 26, 2024 |
No review - read so long ago that I don't recall it.
mykl-s | 19 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |
Rather like being read to by a four year old. The characters were flat, and I could not bring myself to care about what happened to them, no matter how hard I tried. At least it is behind me.
kent23124 | 27 other reviews | May 19, 2023 |
Lovely writing, some darkly humorous lines and situations, and the "bread" part of the book was a compelling narrative I found captivating. The rest felt a bit disjointed with lots of good tidbits throughout; I had trouble staying engaged despite how short it is. I'm looking forward to reading Comyns' The Jupiter Tree soon.
ostbying | 29 other reviews | Jan 1, 2023 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors

Ursula Holden Introduction
Celia Brayfield Introduction
Maggie O'Farrell Introduction
Emily Gould Introduction
Stanley Spencer Cover artist
Jane Gardam Introduction
Kathryn Davis Foreword
Brian Evenson Introduction
Sadie Stein Introduction
Barbara Trapido Introduction
Patricia Craig Introduction



Charts & Graphs