Author - Tessa West


After attending a Quaker school, Tessa West trained to be a teacher, though soon found herself working in prisons rather than in schools. A Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship enabled her to study prisons in Scandinavia. This was followed by a Cropwood Fellowship at Cambridge University. She also spent a term at the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Department at the United Nations in Vienna and later served as an Independent Member of the Parole Board. Since her retirement she has focused on writing, both fiction and non-fiction. While writing her first biography, The Curious Mr Howard, she was awarded an Arthur Welton grant. Lady Sue Ryder of Warsaw: Single-minded philanthropist is her second biography. Tessa writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Please contact Tessa if you are interested in booking her to give a talk about her writing.

Interviews about Lady Sue Ryder of Warsaw

On 9 Feb Tessa introduced her biography on Woman’s Hour. Listen to the interview here.

“She was obviously quite a feisty young woman, she lied about her age to join the FANYs … She did seem to leave her own foundation under a bit of a cloud .. that was a very sad end for her and all the work that she had done … when you look back at her whole life what drove that ferocious energy that she had?”
Jenni Murray, BBC Woman’s Hour Presenter

Tessa said “Its a fascinating story. I feel the richer for spending a couple of years writing and researching it and definitely … my opinion of her has gone up when I’ve seen the stuff she has done …people think very warmly of her … and want to ensure the legend remains.” Lesley responded “You’ve done your bit for making sure the legend remains”.
Listen to Tessa’s interview on BBC Radio Suffolk with Lesley Dolphin here.

Tessa has also written a number of other books: biography, novels and poetry. Her four stand-alone novels are set in East Anglia, where she lives. For example, The Reed Flute is set along the River Yare, and most of As Best We Can takes place near Bury St Edmunds. To read more about her works visit her website.

Reviews of Previous Works

“A brilliant book which everyone should have on their Christmas list.”
Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons (about The Curious Mr Howard)

“A riveting account of the great penal reformer, this humane, obsessive, guilt-ridden, lonely dissenter, indeed the ‘curious Mr Howard’.” (about The Curious Mr Howard)

“Impeccably researched and fascinating.”
Professor David Wilson, Birmingham City University, Howard Journal of Penal Reform (about The Curious Mr Howard)

“This novel has a quiet shine to it. It is beautifully researched, unblinking, always kind. Sharing the daily lives of a Huguenot family living in the fens, and see-sawing between their snatches of happiness and their tears, one comes to feel that yes, this is how things really were.”
The poet Kevin-Crossley Holland (about Companion to Owls)

“A rich, often lyrical, and throughly well-researched story which is both an historical evocation and a rewarding novel about place – both in the geographical sense and in the sense of “belonging”. There is a delicate precision in the writing and real en motional sensitivity in the plot.”
The novelist Sara Maitland (about The Estuary)

“Drawing upon accounts from the long wars with France that occupied the years between 1793 and 1815, Tessa West’s admirable and timely work tells of the indomitablity of the human spirit set against the inglorious consequences of conflict.”
Richard Woodman, the author of the Nathaniel Drinkwater novels (about In the Wake of War)