For award-winning, internationally-acclaimed author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). By Anthony Lawton: godson, cousin & literary executor. Rosemary Sutcliff wrote historical fiction, children's literature and books, films, TV & radio, including The Eagle of the Ninth, Sword at Sunset, Song for a Dark Queen, The Mark of the Horse Lord, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, Dawn Wind, Blue Remembered Hills.
Most of the people I’ve written about really lived; Torrington church really did blow up, with 200 royalist prisoners and their Parliamentary guard inside, and no one has ever known how it happened, though the chaplain Joshua Sprigg left it on record that the deed was done by “one Watts, a desperate villain”.
Now there is just a cobbled mound in the church-yard where it is said that those who died in the explosion were buried in a mass grave.
“Here is an author who writes with great distinction…Simon is a book that I recommend with all my heart” . So said acclaimed writer Noel Streatfield—she of Ballet Shoes & much more besides—about Rosemary Sutcliff and the book
It had never seemed of much importance during their boyhood that Simon Carey was for Parliament and his friend Amias Hannaford a Royalist. But when the Civi War between the two parties broke out, and two years later they were old enough to take part in it, they found themselves fighting for different sides.
This story tells of the last stages of the Civil War waged in the west country; and the account of the part played by Simon in the fighting makes exciting reading. Several times in the course of it he encounters Amias ; and these meetings leave him torn by conflicting loyalties. Finally the day comes when he is forced to put the strength of the friendship to the test, weighing it against his loyalty to the Parliamentarian cause.
Rosemary Sutcliff has written a compelling and unbiased story of the troubled times of the civil war, describing vividly and accurately the final campaign in the west and sharing the life and thoughts and feelings of some of the people who became involved in it.
“Here is an author who writes with great distinction…Simon is a book that I recommend with all my heart” – Noel Streatfield
Over at the Facebook page for Rosemary Sutcliff readers have been robust about the error of The Booktrust’s ways in excluding Rosemary Sutcliff from their attempt to list the 100 best children’s books of the last 100 years. I asked for help in compiling a broadside.
I’m not sure this will help, but the books I enjoyed when I was 11 still engage me at 63! I’ve never felt that Rosemary Sutcliff writes for children alone. There’s probably no more poignant tale than The Lantern Bearers. Also, she has a talent for dialogue in an historical context which is unsurpassed. Most children’s authors have nothing remotely like it. (Roy Marshall)
Rosemary Sutcliff’s books last in the mind and heart. I am 63 now and they stand out as Beacons from my childhood. I have reread many in mid and later life and they are even better. I am with Roy, The Lantern Bearers is my favourite – so evocative and of our own end times too. (Rob Patterson)
Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman books, starting with the Eagle of the Ninth (but I read all the others – The Mark of the Horse Lord was probably the one that really inspired me), were one of the influences that led me to study archaeology.
Rosemary Sutcliff‘s 1954 children’s classic The Eagle of the Ninth (still in print more than 50 years on) is the first of a series of novels in which Sutcliff, who died in 1992, explored the cultural borderlands between the Roman and the British worlds – “a place where two worlds met without mingling” as she describes the British town to which Marcus, the novel’s central character, is posted.
Marcus is a typical Sutcliff hero, a dutiful Roman who is increasingly drawn to the British world of “other scents and sights and sounds; pale and changeful northern skies and the green plover calling”. This existential cultural conflict gets even stronger in later books like The Lantern Bearers and Dawn Wind, set after the fall of Rome, and has modern resonance. But Sutcliff was not just a one-trick writer.
The range of her novels spans from the Bronze Age and Norman England to the Napoleonic wars. Two of her best, The Rider of the White Horse and Simon, are set in the 17th century and are marked by Sutcliff’s unusually sympathetic (for English historical novelists of her era) treatment of Cromwell and the parliamentary cause. Sutcliff’s finest books find liberal-minded members of elites wrestling with uncomfortable epochal changes. From Marcus Aquila to Simon Carey, one senses, they might even have been Guardian readers.
Of Simon by Rosemary Sutcliff, written some sixty years ago, the Washington Post and Times Herald in the USA (April 4th, 1954) wrote: ‘it is a colourful story…..(and) Miss Sutcliff‘s interest in character makes even the minor characters interesting … she is adept too at communicating a sense of the Devon countryside”. The story?
All of England was taking sides for the King of Parliament in the 1640’s.Read More »