By profession a writer and editor herself, Hilary Phillips has found Rosemary Sutcliff’s books again, and has posted about the experience at the You Write tab. Thank you!
I rediscovered Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels this winter, having watched the film The Eagle. I remembered how much I had enjoyed reading a number of her books as a teenager, so launched in with The Lantern Bearers, as the first one that I came across on my eldest son’s rather disorganised bookshelves. I then read The Silver Branch and just for completeness, reverted to The Eagle of the Ninth which I had read repeatedly as a child and young teen, so it definitely felt like rediscovering an old friend. If you know the series you’ll realise this is completely reverse order, which just seemed to add to the charm. And I honestly thought that was it for the series. Although I knew there were plenty of other books, I didn’t realise that she had continued the story over so many generations, and in fact that, in many ways the climax was still to come. So how wonderful when my caring husband produced A Sword at Sunset as a Christmas present. Genuinely, the book I really wanted to exist, but had no knowledge of! I escaped into the dark ages for the Christmas holidays and thoroughly enjoyed the epic tale, the battles, the adventuring, the sad realness of the love story and the freshness of the storytelling, despite its roots in the Arthur legend.
Now, Dawn Wind came along at Easter, just republished and a very fine piece of writing. I really have no memory of reading this as a teenager and although the book may have been aimed at young adults, either that’s still the stage I’m at (I wish) or there’s really a great deal more there for the taking. The characterisation is convincing, the story enthralling as each new stage of Owain’s life opens up. The descriptions of place, of time, of conflict, of dogs and horses, loyalty, love and commitment are as engaging as ever. In case you’ve not read it, I’ll not spoil the ending, but go on the adventure and discover what happens in Owain’s long journey across dark age Britain for yourself!