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Rosemary Sutcliff to BBC Radio Times in 1977 on her historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth and hero Marcus

Early picture of author Rosemary Sutcliff

When the BBC adapted and broadcast Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth in 1977, the BBC Radio Times wrote about her approach to children, writing, the Romans and her hero Marcus—’part of me was in love with him’.

Her passion for the Romans stemmed from her childhood. Her mother read aloud to her from books like Rudyard Kipling‘s Puck Of Pook’s Hill.  His three Roman tales entranced her.

I didn’t read myself till the last possible minute, about nine. I was brought up on Arthur Weigall’s Wanderings In Roman Britain and Wanderings In Anglo-Saxon Britain. He mentions this eagle dug up at Silchester and I’ve been fascinated by it since I was five.

The Radio Times journalist wrote of Rosemary: “She writes, superbly, of adventure, battle, young warriors. Rosemary Sutcliff‘s conversation is rapid and merry and very funny”.

In the BBC TV publicity material she claimed to be completely uneducated.

I left school at fourteen. I haven’t got a very literary or intelligent kind of life. I have very ordinary friends.

In fact, she completed art school and was a successful professional miniaturist in her late twenties when she turned to writing and secured the publication of her first book. It just “happened to be” for children; and most of her books kept on being, theoretically at least, “for children”. But she definitely did not believe in a rigid division between adults’ and children’s books. “When I was a child I was reading Dickens and Beatrix Potter at the same time”. As far as writing goes she did not find it restrictive.

Very occasionally a subject is verboten. And one may have to simplify—no, not that—uncomplicate a very complex emotion. But usually I just write as I want to write.

She said that she did not know all that many children and did not automatically like them .

I like a child or a dog or an adult according to their merits. I am prone to like more dogs on a percentage basis.

The Eagle Of The Ninth, published in 1954, was one of her favourite books.

I rather wish it weren’t, because it is quite early. I think and hope I have written better since. But it is my best beloved. Part of me was Marcus, and part was in love with him.

When aged only about three she had  juvenile arthritis (Still’s Disease) which was another factor in her writing:

I think most children’s writers are writing a chunk of unlived childhood.

Source: Radio Times, September 3, 1977

A Lego Model of The Eagle of the Ninth—Roman Historical novel by Rosemary Sutcliff

Ian Spacek built a model of Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth, showing heroes Marcus and Esca traveling through the wild and passing by the old ruin of a Roman outpost.

Lego model of The Eagle of the Ninth from Rosemary Sutcliff historical novelist

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff—Her ‘best beloved book’|Great Children’s Literature and Historical Fiction| The Three Word Review Project

Latest collection of reviews in three words of Rosemary Sutcliff’s internationally-acclaimed historical novel for ‘children aged 8 to 88’ (her phrase), The Eagle of the Ninth (her ‘best beloved book’), set in Roman Britain. Interesting that very few words have been used more than once. (I’ve excluded names and places):

Ancient History, Bleak, Classic, Courageous, Dramatic, Engrossing, Enthralling, Evocative, Friendship, Gripping, Haunting, Heart-stirring, Honour, I-love-it, I-was-there, Imagery, Imagined, Inspirational, Inspires, Life-affirming, Makes-history-live, Nostalgic, Optimistic, Real History, Really-rather-good, Reborn, Resigned, Resolute, Restored, Spine-tingling, Tact, Thrilling, Understanding, Uplifting, Valiant, Vivid

The Eagle of the Ninth 3 Word Reviews 1.1 at June 1st 2015

12 reviews in three words of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth | #3wordreview

My attention was drawn on Twitter to a review in just three words of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth:

Courageous. Resolute. Gripping.

This set me wondering how other readers and followers here, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, would review The Eagle of the Ninth in just three words.Twelve responses so far…more  in the comments below would be very welcome please!

12 Three Word Reviews of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth

Is Rosemary Sutcliff’s ‘rattling good yarn’ The Eagle of the Ninth, of 21st Century geopolitical significance?

Buttonwood’s Notebook at the Economist, on The Eagle of the NinthThere was an intriguing post late last year (2014) at The Economist’s Buttonwood Blog about Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth.

… Our leaders make promises to get elected but cannot fulfil them because of forces outside their control; this adds to voter cynicism.

 … (For example) the hard power of military force. In recent weeks, we have seen Western governments struggle to come up with a strategy to contain ISIS, and forced to watch helplessly as hostages are beheaded. A decade of intervention (and billions of spending) leave Iraq and Afghanistan no more stable than before; Libya is less stable; there are regular atrocities in Nigeria; and so on.

The hard power of the West means that few countries would be foolish enough to put an army or navy into the field against it. But they don’t need to do that to cause massive disruption; the West is vulnerable at a million points because of its open model and worldwide network.

The example that springs to mind …  is The Eagle of the Ninth, a rattling good yarn by Rosemary Sutcliff based on the story of the Roman ninth legion which (on some accounts) vanished in the wilds of Scotland. In the book and film (The Eagle), the soldiers are swallowed up in the mists, and picked off by local tribes. …

In other words, conquest of territory is one thing; holding that territory is quite another, in the face of the hostility of the local population. Perhaps the only “successful” approach is the ruthlessness of Genghis Khan—wiping out or enslaving the men and women—and that is rightly not an option.

So does all this matter to the global economy, or are the markets right to shrug their shoulders, and treat terrorism and rebellions as background noise? I think it does matter for a couple of reasons. For a start, economic globalisation depends on the different power blocs agreeing to co-operate in order to smooth the flow of trade and investment. But the example of Russia and Ukraine shows that co-operation can break down and Japan/China tensions may cause something similar.

Secondly, this powerlessness adds to voter dissatisfaction. I’ve dubbed this the “Starbucks problem” —people get their coffee exactly the way they want it, with soy milk, wet or dry etc—and they expect politics to be the same way. But you could also dub this the Hollywood problem. We are used to seeing Spiderman or Bruce Willis save the day and the enemies being soundly defeated. But real life is not like that.

Our elected leaders are dogged by Monday-morning quarterbacking as pundits and rivals declare that if only they had been tougher (or only if they had not been involved in the first place) said disaster would not have happened. If only we had bombed Syria in 2013, things would be better—maybe, but maybe ISIS would now be in charge in Damascus. Again, this voter dis-satisfaction may lead to electoral success for those who have simplistic solutions (blame the foreigners, blame the minorities at home) and this will only make matters worse. And then the markets will really have something to worry about.

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