A body of work rather than a shelf of novels

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Rosemary Sutcliff – historical novelist and children’s book writer – is the object of an essay by John Rowe Townsend in his 1971 book  A Sense of Story —as blog reader and commenter Anne highlights at another post.  She notes that his observation that Rosemary Sutcliff’s books amount to  “a body of work rather than a shelf of novels” is is taken from what she refers to as the essay’s “wonderfully striking and poetic introduction”:

Day to day, minute to minute, second to second the surface of our lives is in a perpetual ripple of change. Below the immediate surface are slower, deeper currents, and below these again are profound mysterious movements beyond the scale of the individual life-span. And far down on the sea-bed are the oldest, most lasting things, whose changes our imagination can hardly grasp at all. The strength of Rosemary Sutcliff’s main work—and it is a body of work rather than a shelf of novels—is its sense of movement on all these scales. Bright the surface may be, and vigorous the action of the moment, but it is never detached from the forces underneath that give it meaning. She puts more into the reader’s consciousness than he is immediately aware of.

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