Monica Dickens, born in 1915, was brought up in London; her father was a barrister and a grandson of Charles Dickens. Her mother’s German origins and her Catholicism gave her the detached eye of an outsider; at St Paul’s Girls’ School she was under-occupied and rebellious. After drama school she was a debutante before working as a cook. One Pair of Hands (1939), her first book, described life in the kitchens of Kensington. It was the first of a group of semi-autobiographies of which Mariana(1940), technically a novel, was one. ‘My aim is to entertain rather than instruct,’ she wrote. ‘I want readers to recognise life in my books.’ In 1951 Monica Dickens married a US naval officer, Roy Stratton, moved to America and adopted two daughters. The Winds of Heaven was published in 1955. An extremely popular writer, Monica Dickens involved herself in, and wrote about, good causes such as the Samaritans. After her husband died she lived in a cottage in rural Berkshire, dying there in 1992.