(1905 - 1983) U.K. - South Africa
Mary was born in London as Eileen Mary Challans, the daughter of a doctor, and studied at St Hugh's College, Oxford. She first went to Oxford with the idea of teaching, but decided that she wanted to be a writer instead, and that after taking her degree she should broaden her knowledge of human life. She then trained for three years as a nurse, and wrote her first published novel, Promise of Love.
During World War II she worked as a nurse. Her next three novels were written during off-duty time. One of them, Return to Night, received the MGM award. After the war, in 1948, she went to South Africa with her longtime female companion, Julie Mullard. They lived in Cape town for the rest of her life; their relation lasted for 50 years.
She has traveled considerably in Africa and has gone up the east coast to Zanzibar and Mombasa. But it was her travels in Greece that resulted in her previous brilliant historical reconstructions of ancient Greece.
She specialized in stories about ancient Greece, with two novels on the mythical hero Theseus - The King Must Die (1958) and The Bull from the Sea (1962) - and two on Alexander the Great: Fire from Heaven (1970) and The Persian Boy (1972).