Rabia Gale, who grew up in Pakistan, recently published Shattered:Broken Fairy Tales and spoke at Siri Paulson’s blog of “the three authors whose works influenced me the most as a child”. One was Rosemary Sutcliff; all were British; perhaps, she mused, because her “biggest source of books was the subscription library run by the British Council”.
Sutcliff is best known for her historical fiction set in Roman Britain. Her protagonists are young soldiers who make heartbreaking decisions in the face of the tide of history, whether it is the inevitable conquest of Britain by the Romans or the subsequent onslaught of the Anglo-Saxons. Sutcliff is a master at evoking the time and place of her stories. From her, I learned how powerful and poignant a small moment can be, whether it is a woman combing sparks out of her hair, a man crushing a singed moth between his fingers, or a deserter setting ablaze the fires of a lighthouse one last time as Rome abandons Britain.