One of the 20th century’s great writers of historical fiction for children died in 1992 from a disabling disease that had confined her to a wheelchair for much of her working life. (Blog editor’s note: actually, she did not die from Still’s disease!). Yet Rosemary Sutcliff produced many outstanding works of fiction over a 40-year-period — most notably her cycle of novels which dealt with the Roman occupation of Britain. The last two books that she completed were children’s versions of Homer.
The first of these, Black Ships Before Troy, her version of the Iliad, is now out. Like all her books, it is an intellectually-taxing read — but it also manages to sort out some of the complicated strands of Homer’s often digressive narrative. This helps children to see the characters of the great protagonists all the more clearly.
The illustrations by Alan Lee do the book a great service. At their best, they have the confident sweep and pomp of Victorian narrative painting.
- Source: The Economist, December 4, 1993