Rosemary Sutcliff Historical Novels and the North-East of England

One Alan Myers once compiled an ‘A to Z of the many writers of the past who had a significant connection’ with the North-East of England. It seems now to have disappeared from the web . He writes of Rosemary Sutcliff:

“One of the most distinguished children’s writers of our times, Rosemary Sutcliff wrote over thirty books , some of them now considered classics. She sets several of her best-known works in Roman and Dark Age Britain, giving her the opportunity to write about divided loyalties, a recurring theme. The Capricorn Bracelet comprises six linked short stories spanning the years AD 61 to AD 383, and Hadrian’s Wall features in the narrative.

The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) is perhaps her finest work and exemplifies the psychological dilemmas that Rosemary Sutcliff brought to her novels. It is a quest story involving a journey north to the land of the Picts to recover the lost standard of the Roman Ninth Legion. A good part of the book is set in the North East around Hadrian’s Wall (a powerful symbol) and a map is provided. The book has been televised, and its sequels are The Silver Branch (1957) and The Lantern Bearers (1959), which won the Carnegie medal. Sutcliff returned to the Romano-British frontier in The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) and Frontier Wolf (1980).

Northern Britain in the sixth century AD is the setting of The Shining Company (1990), a retelling of The Goddodin (v. Aneirin) a tragedy of epic proportions. The story, however, is seen from the point of view of the shield-bearers, not the lords eulogised in The Goddodin, and treats themes of loyalty, courage and indeed political fantasy.”

Rosemary Sutcliff was ‘Of the Minstrel Kind’, and a writer with a distinctive view of her readers

Rosemary Sutcliff, historical novelist

Rosemary Sutcliff was the subject of a fascinating, insightful article (‘Of  The Minstrel Kind’) in the children’s literature magazine Books for Keeps. First published only in print form, it has for some time been reproduced online.

Margaret Meak was paying tribute to a seventy-year-old Rosemary.

I met Rosemary Sutcliff for the first time thirty years ago in a London hospital where she was recovering from an operation. Read More »

“Catreath, Cataractonium as the Romans had called it” | Catterick now | In Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Shining Company

One of the pleasures of curating this blog about Rosemary Sutcliff, the eminent historical novelist and children’s writer (who regular readers will know was a close, much-loved relative of mine) is the contributions you readers make by way of ‘comments’ on particular posts, and also the ‘You Write!’ tab. A recent 1988 diary entry mentioned  Catraeth. Jane mused about Catterick camp and Jane picked up the baton:

The Catterick Garrison is still in operation – it’s the largest BritIsh Army garrison in the world.

The old Roman fort of Cataractonium will be familiar to those who’ve read The Shining Company – it’s the setting for the last desperate stand of the Company against the Saxon forces of Aethelfrith, Lord of Bernicia and Deira.“Catreath, Cataractonium as the Romans had called it, was a double cohort fort, and so there was room enough for all of us within the crumbling defences.”

Cataractonium’s marching camp also makes an appearance: “And so, with the forest reaching up towards us, we came to the remains of yet one more fort in that land of lost forts, and made our last night’s camp. It was not much of a fort, maybe only a permanent marching camp in its time, and being on the edge of the forest country the wild had taken it back more completely than those of the high moors…. little remained of the buildings but turf hummocks and bramble domes”.

Although it isn’t one of the Aquila family sequence, there’s one of those “aha” moments in Shining Company which readers of Sutcliff work enjoy – a connection made with Frontier Wolf (set a couple of centuries earlier) when young Prosper and a couple of companions out on a training exercise camp at the (now ruined) Cramond fort where the action in Frontier Wolf takes place. Sutcliff uses the linking device very effectively as a way of emphasizing continuity.

And ,of course, as well as making me wiser about Catterick and Catraeth, and reminding me of Frontier Wolf , this prompts me to  ask all you readers and contributors – regular and occasional – please do tell us some more “Aha” moments …

‘Kalegarth’ in Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff

From a blog, now dis-continued, about historical novel for children Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff:

It’s curious that this was marketed as a young adult novel – yes, the protagonist is young and the book is short (196 pages), but it’s a regular novel that some teens would enjoy if they are advanced readers. It even has a brief mention of sex (that was Robert Heinlein’s definition of his juvenile novels: short adult novels with no sex).  Read More »

Villa Molina: Los lobos de la frontera (1980), de Rosemary Sutcliff

Novela histórica de la saga que Sutcliff escribió sobre el tiempo de dominación romana de Britania. El protagonista vuelve a ser un descendiente de la familia de los Aquila: Un joven oficial que cae en desgracia por una decisión desacertada y es enviado como consecuencia a la frontera escocesa, al mando de unas tropas un tanto asilvestradas.

La trama es bastante sencilla y equilibrada. La autora hace ver que la actuación de los individuos repercute en los grupos sociales, pero también los personajes se ven arrastrados por problemas sociales (y los que eran amigos, por ejemplo, pasan a enfrentarse).

Para chicos (protagonista masculino, aventuras militares, virtudes castrenses…). Me ha gustado bastante. 4/5.

Más reseñas de la saga en este blog aquí, aquí, aquí y aquí. (¡Me ha dado fuerte, eh!)

via Villa Molina: Los lobos de la frontera (1980), de Rosemary Sutcliff.

Translation from Google of this blogpost:

Historical novel of the saga that Sutcliff wrote about the time of Roman occupation of Britain. The protagonist is again a descendant of the family of Aquila: A young officer who falls from grace by a misguided decision and sent as a result of the Scottish border, troops commanded by a somewhat feral. The plot is fairly simple and balanced. The author shows that the impact performance of individuals in social groups, but the characters are drawn by social problems (and they were friends, for example, are to face). For boys (male lead, military adventures, military virtues …). I liked a lot. 4 / 5.  More reviews of the series on this blog here, here, here and here. (I have it bad, eh!)