Ruth M(abel) Arthur Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ruth M(abel) Arthur 1905–

British novelist, poet, and short story writer. Arthur, who blends a romantic approach with contemporary topics and problems, is a leading writer of Gothic novels for young adults aimed at a predominately female audience. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, she began writing as a child and had her first short stories published when she was eighteen. Also during this period Arthur told stories for children on radio broadcasts. She was a kindergarten teacher before her marriage and wrote primarily for younger children until her own children became teenagers, when she started writing for the older reader. Most of her young adult novels follow a similar structural pattern: her protagonist, who is usually a teenage girl, comes to a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding through her handling of the difficulties thrust upon her. These difficulties usually revolve around relationships, especially family relationships. Setting plays an important role in Arthur's fiction. She generally chooses places she has lived as backgrounds but imbues them with mysteriousness through the introduction of supernatural events, travels in time, and local superstitions. Although Arthur on occasion has been criticized for formulaic plotting and an overwrought prose style, her novels are recognized as a creditable contribution to the popular genre of Gothic romance. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 7.)

[Dragon Summer] rings true to life—its moral tone is good and its simplicity and acceptance of life will endear it to many young girls. The fantasy is normalised and kept in proportion yet there are points here to stretch a girl's imagination and help her to overcome some of the common obstacles of life. (p. 124)

The Junior Bookshelf, July, 1962.