Every morning, at the same time, Rosemary Sutcliff would walk though to her study where, leaning on the walking stick she always used, first she would open her post and then read the Daily Telegraph. I do not think that I ever saw her reading The Economist, nor indeed did I ever see a copy of it in her study in Sussex. But I am sure that she would have read and welcomed its review of Blood Feud in 1976:
The chasm between children’s and adults’ literature narrows to a crack in historical fiction. In Blood Feud it is scarcely visible at all, and not only because the hero is no longer a child (nor even that stereotype of history-for-children, a child by our century’s reckoning but an adult in his own). The issues Rosemary Sutcliff weaves into her narrative, with the skill one would expect from her, are not at all childish.
She is in her favourite historical territory, between the decline of the Roman empire and the lightening of the Dark Ages, a period of shifting tribes and religions, of uncertainty, migration and conflicting loyalties to old and new forces. She is dealing with physical injury and handicap, in an age when an inability to fight was likely to spell contempt, if not destitution and death. But she has dealt with that, too, before (in Warrior Scarlet). What is new here is the level of subtlety at which she reconciles the conflicting pressures on her hero, caught up in a blood feud which is not his own but his blood-brother’s, trapped between the Christian and pre-Christian notions of honour and the path to an after-life. No answer, in this dilemma, is easily or painlessly the right one, nor free from afterdoubts.
And all this with an economy of words, with an evocation of scenes and journeys, which show that she has lost none of her descriptive skill. Miss Sutcliff’s reputation can only be enhanced by this latest book.
Source: The Economist, December 25, 1976.