Rosemary Sutcliff researched her books of historical fiction and children’s literature with “exquisite care” | Oxford Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature

“Critics of Rosemary Sutcliff’s work sometimes comment on its difficulty both in terms of the language she employs and in terms of the historical depth her novels embrace.” But Romey (as I knew her, a close family member) welcomed as compliments these sorts of evaluations of her writing.

“She prided herself on never writing down to her readers, expecting them instead to be enticed into enjoying a compelling and demanding tale by the pageantry of history and the warm humanity of people in every era.”

“She carefully creates dialogue in her novels that recollects the speech of a bygone era without falling into what she termed ‘gadzookery.’ Sutcliff also researched her novels with exquisite care, and they reflect her vast knowledge of military tactics, religious practices, landscapes, and the material conditions and artifacts of everyday life whether in a Bronze Age village or in a Roman legion on the move.”

“Other commentators have noted the limited role that female characters play in her novels. Except for a few volumes that focus on a young woman, like Song for a Dark Queen (1978), which tells the tale of Boudicca, the queen of the Iceni who led a revolt against the Romans in a.d. 60, this is certainly true. Sutcliff often includes energetic and courageous women among her secondary characters, but providing insights into women’s roles in history is not among her greatest strengths.”

Extracts from Oxford Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature on Rosemary Sutcliff.

6 thoughts on “Rosemary Sutcliff researched her books of historical fiction and children’s literature with “exquisite care” | Oxford Encyclopaedia of Children’s Literature

  1. Anthony, the language she employed was perhaps the primary attraction which elevated her to her throne alongside Kipling as my lifelong co-favorite from childhood. Truth be told, many subtleties of my personal lexicon, as well as ways of enjoying the beauty of nature, which others may find a bit queer, were acquired at her knee. What a drab, gray and static world, in which those critics must wish us to remain!

    On a side note, I was in Kent on business a couple of years ago (I live in Utah, USA) and made a weekend pilgrimage to her home – I knocked many doors before finding the correct village, then finally the gatepost with the placard of her name. Also walked the streets of Arundel for a bit.


  2. Yes. Meeting her for you would have been lovely. She always welcomed readers who asked to visit, and visitors always left enchanted. I was so lucky to have her in my family, often visiting her as a child and young person. Then visiting with my own children. Thanks for your comment.


    • You are most welcome as ever and this site is such a breath of fresh air. You were lucky to have had her in your family and I’m so sorry she died so early. What a waste.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a child i didn’t notice the lack of female characters in Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. But years later i understood it was one of the reasons why i felt so comfortable with her books. I never really “get” girls and women. I don’t question the fact that I am one myself, but I’m hard put to find what i have in common with the rest of my sex 😅. Fact is: i never missed them in the books. She’s the only one, either. Bestselling SF author Karen Traviss also has a majority of male characters in her books. And military expertise. 😅

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    • Interesting. Not having very many female leads in her books did not bother her either! She used to say, I think I recall, that she found it easier to get inside the skin of a man. She also I think used to comment that the position of women in her stories reflected the position of women in the societies and times she wrote about. And of course when she did write with a heroine, Song for a Dark Queen was a triumph!

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  4. I love her books from all eras but especially the Roman ones and the ones on the British tribesmen. Her knowledge of the latter is extraordinary and has informed me greatly of their life and times. I would have loved to meet her and to be able to pass on my compliments personally and perhaps be able to discuss her Roman novels and their inspiration with her. My Latin mistress at school very kindly lent me her copy of “The Eagle of the Ninth” for the summer holidays and I was hooked. It was prerequisite reading for a trip to Hadrian’s Wall in 2018 and again in 2019 and it never fails to intrigue me once again. Thank you Rosemary Sutcliff.

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