Sunday Times writer Sally Hawkins chooses Rosemary Sutcliff historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth as the book that changed her life

The Eagle of the Ninth, original book jacket OUP

Sally Hawkins, who writes for the Sunday Times, was asked to choose a ‘special book’ that changed her life, and explain why it means so much to her.

When I was eight, my taste suddenly moved on from What Katy Did at School and Swallows and Amazons to history. History with boys in it. The Eagle of the Ninth wasn’t the first historical novel I read, but it is one I found myself caught up in all over again, when the film version appeared in 2011. Fifty years on, I found its you-were-there depiction of Roman Britain and gripping plot as beguiling as ever.

I now realise I can trace my academic choices back to this tale of a young man searching for a lost legion — and missing father. Rosemary Sutcliff based it on authentic sources, and this intrigued me. The novel fired my interest in history; it was lurking behind my teenage passion for the First World War poets; and, from there, it was just a short step to my signing up for postgraduate degrees in medieval literature.

Re-reading Sutcliff, I realise just how un-condescending to younger readers her style and vocabulary are: what they don’t understand will just have to be looked up in a dictionary or on the internet. But the story is so compellingly told, they won’t be put off. More important, the book taught the younger me about friendship, courage and integrity. Sutcliff’s heroes are models of how to be good people, but never priggish or unbelievable. I bet George R R Martin read this book before embarking on his Game of Thrones series. The Wall for him is as potent a symbol of the divide between civilisation and darkness as it is for Sutcliff’s young Roman officer.

The Eagle of the Ninth author Rosemary Sutcliff loved Rudyard Kipling’s children’s books

Picture of Rudyard Kipling writer of children's and adults fiction, and a favourite of Rosemary SucliffRosemary Sutcliff always acknowledged her love of Rudyard Kipling. She wrote a small monograph about him, and  in 1965 in The Kipling Journal wrote:

… other people write about things from the outside in, but Kipling writes about them from the inside out … I was something under six when my mother first read The Jungle Books to me. They were my first introduction to Kipling, and perhaps for that reason, they have an especial potency for me. From the first, I had an extraordinary sense of familiarity in the jungle; I was not discovering a new world but returning to a world I knew; and the closest contact I ever made with a ‘Story book Character’, I made with Bagheera, the black panther with the voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree and the little bald spot that told of a collar, under his chin.  Read More »

Rosemary Sutcliff commended and highly commended for The Carnegie Medal for The Eagle of the Ninth, The Shield Ring, The Silver Branch, and Tristan and Iseult

In earlier times The Carnegie Medal used to have “commended” and “highly commended” books each year, as well as a winner—I do not think it does now.

Rosemary Sutcliff was awarded the medal in 1959 for The Lantern Bearers. But she was several times commended too. In:

1954 for The Eagle of the Ninth
1956 for The Shield Ring
1957 for The Silver Branch

And highly commended in:

1971 for Tristan and Iseult

 

Information on The Eagle film by Kevin Macdonald and Duncan Kenworthy of The Eagle of the Ninth best-selling historical novel by Rosemary Sutcliff

Now that it is several years since the making of the film The Eagle (2011) of the historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) by Rosemary Sutcliff, Ipost here in a post some of the material I originally gathered as a separate page on this http://www.rosemarysutcliff.com blog.

The Eagle film (initially entitled ‘The Eagle of the Ninth)

The Eagle is the title of the film (movie) based on world-renowned historical novelist  Rosemary Sutcliff’s famous historical novel – The Eagle of the Ninth. Academy award-winner Kevin Macdonald directed it;  Duncan Kenworthy produced it. Channing Tatum (other films before then included G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Dear John) lead the cast,  with Jamie Bell (Defiance, Jumper), Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong  (Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Kick Ass) and Tahar Rahim (The Prophet). Jeremy Brock, BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter of Macdonald’s 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, adapted the screenplay of The Eagle  from Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic novel. Read More »

Source of the name Esca in The Eagle of the Ninth

This is news to me, although it is probably originally in her memoir Blue Remembered Hills: the name Esca for the slave in Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth comes from Victorian novelist Whyte-Melville’s The Gladiators. Rosemary’s mother used to read her this aloud.

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  • Source: Talcroft, B. L. (1995). Death of the corn king: King and goddess in Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction for young adults. Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press.