Revisiting Rosemary Sutcliff, a remarkable woman

The flurry of attention to The Carnegie Medal has set me re-reading all manner of more extensive pieces on Rosemary Sutcliff’s writing. One such was posted at the extensive site whose writer ‘Annis”  decided some while back to revisit Rosemary Sutcliff’s  “work as an adult and consider what it was about this remarkable woman that enabled her to inspire so many children with an enduring love of history, heroic fantasy, mythology and legend.”.

Ask any baby-boomer who loves historical fiction what inspired their appreciation, and chances are the reply will be, “Well, when I was a kid I read Rosemary Sutcliff’s books”. Out of print for years, Sutcliff’s novels are making a comeback as their original readers reach an age when they can influence the reissue of old favourites.

2 thoughts on “Revisiting Rosemary Sutcliff, a remarkable woman

  1. Every now and then you come across a novel written with such power that the hair at the back of your neck lifts as you read it. “The Mark of the Horse Lord” is one of these special books. How did I miss this one as a youngster? It’s suitable for both teens and adults, though a mature reader may be better able to appreciate its deep mythic resonances.

    Set in second-century Scotland during the Roman occupation of Britain, this is the story of Red Phaedrus, a young British gladiator released from slavery when he wins the Wooden Sword of freedom. Not knowing what to do with his new life, he recklessly tosses his fate to the gods, and they swiftly catch it up, granting him a kingdom and the Lordship of the Dalraiada, a Scottish tribe. But as Phaedrus discovers, gifts from the gods often come with a hidden price attached. It’s a remarkable tale of tribal warfare, ritual kingship, honour, loyalty and sacrifice. It’s also a superb evocation of life among the northern Celtic tribes with their rival religions, based around either worship of the masculine Sun God or matriarchal veneration of the Great Mother.

    Reading this novel was what inspired me to go back and revisit Rosemary Sutcliff’s work as an adult and write the above article.


  2. She was certainly one of the most influential writers in my reading life. I was so completely engrossed in her novels, especially the Eagle of the Ninth, that at 12 and 13 I worked diligently on a ‘sequel’ to it. Although I’ve never returned to that genre in my published work, I’m sure that this fan fiction was good training for an apprentice writer.


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