British novelist, biographer and children's author of Russian origin, born Marta Aleksandrovna Almedingen and also known as Martha Edith Almedingen or von Almedingen.
On her mother's side, she was descended from the aristocratic Poltoratsky family; her maternal grandfather was Serge Poltoratzky, the literary scholar and bibliophile who ended his days in exile, shuttling between France and England. His daughter Olga, the novelist's mother, grew up in Kent but was fascinated by her father's native Russia, where she moved in the early 1880s and married Alexander Almedingen, who had turned his back on his family's military traditions to become a scientist. In 1900 he abandoned his family and they lived in increasingly impoverished circumstances, well described in her memoir Tomorrow Will Come, but the author was able to attend the Xenia Institute and eke out a living in the increasingly desperate times of revolution and civil war. She attended Petrograd University and became a lecturer in English and mediaeval history there in the early 1920's.
In September 1922 she managed to get permission to leave the country and went to England, where she became a well-known children's author. In 1941 she won the $5,000 Atlantic Monthly nonfiction prize for Tomorrow Will Come.
She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1951 and received the Book World Festival award in 1968.
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