Rosemary Sutcliff’s personal note of her historical novels for adults

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Rosemary Sutcliff wrote five historical novels specifically for adult readers. They were published by Hodder and Stoughton, as she noted in her blue reference notebook.

Rosemary Sutcliff's personal note of adult historical fiction

10 comments

  1. And today I noticed that Hodder and Stoughton, recorded by RS here, and once proud publishers of Rosemary Sutcliff, sadly have no sense of history themselves. Search for Rosemary Sutcliff on their website and there is a nil return. I was moved to moan on twitter (http://www.twitter.com/rsutcliff) , but I am not holding my breath for them to bother to respond!

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  2. I’m sure she would have done! I’m fairly sure both Helen Waddell and John Buchan knew about Thomas Keith; maybe not strictly relevant, but possible that RS picked up the information from one or other of them. Not many people know about Helen Waddell these days but I think “The Wandering Scholars” would have been right up Rosemary Sutcliff’s street.

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  3. I haven’t read “Road to Sardis”, Jane, thanks for the mention – must hunt it out :) Tom Holt’s tragi-comedy “The Walled Orchard” is another novel which is very good on the rise and fall of Athens and Athenian democracy in relation to the disastrous Sicilian Expedition.

    “Blood and Sand” is not as well known, but RS demonstrates her adaptability when it comes to settings and employs some of her favourite themes of honour, loyalty and comradeship in this novel about Thomas Keith, a young Scottish soldier captured in Eygpt during the Napoleonic Wars, who converted to Islam and briefly became governor of Medina.

    Thomas Keith’s remarkable true story can be read in this piece available at the Electric Scotland website – see pg 109:

    Click to access 08Chp12LandOfTurban.pdf

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    1. I was always intrigued about why this story captured Rosemary, it is such a different period for her, and a different setting. I believe there was someone she used to correspond with in Scotland, who she consulted on military detail, who may have introduced her to it. Or, of course, she may have known of it from her extensive reading and knowledge of history.

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      1. I think your idea about RS’ Scottish correspondent giving her the idea is a likely one, Anthony – Thomas Keith’s story is such a little known one, especially outside of Scotland – and even then probably only someone with a knowledge of Scottish military history would be familiar with it.

        If anyone’s interested, though, the piece about Thomas Keith I linked to above comes from an old book by James Grant, called “The Scottish Soldiers of Fortune”, which is full of further remarkable stories about intrepid Scotsmen who served as mercenaries all over the world from the 17th century on. The whole book can be read on line here:
        http://www.electricscotland.com/history/scotreg/fortune/index.htm

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          1. Actually, now I think of it, I wonder if Rosemary Sutcliff read this book herself as part of her research for “Blood and Sand”?

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  4. I love The Flowers of Adonis and have been known to read it in sequence with Mary Renault’s Last of the Wine and Stephanie Plowman’s Road to Sardis which cover the same period. Interesting to compare the three because it doesn’t by any means feel like reading the same story more than once.

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  5. Rosemary Sutcliff really was prolific. I thought I’d read all her work, and then here are two that are new to me – Blood & Sand, and the Flowers of Adonis.

    Thank you also for posting the diary entries – lovely reading.

    I have to admit to being curious about the love of her life, who she mentions meeting again at the end of Blue Remembered Hills. I think she says ‘but that’s another story’…. The mark of a good storyteller, always to leave the reader wanting more! I can completely understand that you wouldn’t wish to put any material in the public domain which she would have felt too personal, but it is intriguing nonetheless. Perhaps there is material for a biography there at some point in the future.

    Very best wishes,

    Katherine

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    1. thanks for your post – I am pleased you enjoy the diaries. A biography one day, yes…maybe for the 100th anniversary of her birth – in 2020.

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