Sandra Garside-Neville has written an insightful appreciation of Rosemary Sutcliff. She notes that as a child Rosemary Sutcliff had Still’s Disease, a form of juvenile arthritis, and spent much of her youth in hospital for painful operations. Drawing on Rosemary’s own autobiography, she also notes that as a very young girl, the arsenic in Rosemary’s medicine caused her to hallucinate: she saw a panther, wolves and snakes despite not knowing what they were. Years later, she came across them in Kipling’s books.
Another effect of illness that Garside-Neville draws attention to was that Rosemary Sutcliff spent much time sitting still looking, rather than moving around and investigating which meant that she developed an acute eye for observation. In fact, again as Garside-Neville points out, author Alan Garner has commented that children’s authors often have two things in common – they were deprived of the usual primary schooling, and they were ill and left to their own company. Certainly true of Sutcliff.