There can be nothing nicer than being asked to write an introduction to a favourite book, but at the same time it is a difficult task. It is like being asked to describe the charm of a face you love. If you did not love the face so much, and even more the person behind the face, it would be easy. But as things are, what can you possibly say? I can only say, baldly and inadequately, that I love this book. It may not be such a great book as Sword at Sunset but it has qualities of poignancy and gentleness that make it unforgettable.
A Rosemary Sutcliff historical novel which was written for adults was The Rider of the White Horse, set in the English Civil War, about Sir Thomas Fairfax and his wife. This is the first paragraph of the introduction by the renowned historical novelist Elizabeth Goudge. Continue reading “Historical novelist Elizabeth Goudge introduces Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Rider of the White Horse”
I have only just realised a subtle titling difference.
The Rider of the White Horse (UK edition) by Rosemary Sutcliff
From a 5/5 Amazon reader’s review:
My sister and I agreed on few things when we were young, but this book was one of them. We both loved it and still do. I have a copy purchased long ago. This book about Thomas Fairfax – an English Civil War General on the side of Parliament – told from the viewpoint of his gallant wife – is magnificent. I treasure it. It moves me and I believe in the authors portrayal of Anne and Thomas Fairfax. They live and breathe within this book – as indeed do all the characters. Neither Anne nor Thomas thought that the King should be executed and Thomas refused to agree to it although the book does not reach that point in history – but their characters are so well portrayed that you can well believe it.
And here some more covers of UK versions:
Rider on a White Horse (US Edition of The Rider of the White Horse) by Rosemary Sutcliff
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.