Author Penelope Lively remembers Rosemary Sutcliff

Excerpts from newspaper remarks by British author Penelope Lively recalling a visit to acclaimed children’s author and writer of hitorical fiction Rosemary Sutcliff.

Writing in The Independent (UK newspaper) just after Rosemary Sutcliff‘s death in July 1992, English writer Penelope Lively commented on its obituary . She recalled a visit in the early 1970s to Rosemary’s house, Swallowshaw, in Sussex 27 July .

We sat in her study, she in her wheelchair behind the desk, the rest of us uneasily perched, (my) children – as they then were – awed into total silence. A housekeeper brought tea on a trolley: cucumber sandwiches and dainty little cakes. Two chihuahuas snarled from a cushion and occasionally shot out to snap at our ankles (on subsequent visits I learned how to deal them a surreptitious kick). It was all dreadfully genteel and strained. I made some comment about the fantail pigeons on the lawn beyond the window. ”Actually, they’re a nuisance,” said Rosemary. ”They crap all over everything.” And suddenly we all relaxed, the children recovered normal speech, the gentility subsided and we got over the shock that first meeting her must have induced in anyone – the amazement that from that tiny misshapen person, whose whole being seemed subsumed into the enormous, alert eyes, sprang those vivid, intensely physical books.

…  I remember looking at (her) hands and wondering – idiotically – if she could hold a pen. Of course she could, in a wonderfully idiosyncratic and innovative way, writing almost upside down, it seemed, and she drew them her dolphin logo and a great flowery signature, in their cherished Charles Keeping-illustrated hardbacks.

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

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