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.
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I am reminded by a tweet I noticed today that Rosemary Sutcliff was praised in an editorial in the Guardian newspaper in 2011.
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 »
Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1953 historical novel and children’s book Simon – the subject of a comment by Anne in an earlier post – is a story about competing loyalties in the midst of a civil war. The Washington Post and Times Herald on April 4th, 1954 said:
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. Read More »