The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff—Her ‘best beloved book’|Great Children’s Literature and Historical Fiction| The Three Word Review Project

The Three Word Review project is collecting reviews in just three words from readers of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth, which has sold over a million copies world-wide.

Latest collection of reviews in three words of Rosemary Sutcliff’s internationally-acclaimed historical novel for ‘children aged 8 to 88’ (her phrase), The Eagle of the Ninth (her ‘best beloved book’), set in Roman Britain. Interesting that very few words have been used more than once. (I’ve excluded names and places):

Ancient History, Bleak, Classic, Courageous, Dramatic, Engrossing, Enthralling, Evocative, Friendship, Gripping, Haunting, Heart-stirring, Honour, I-love-it, I-was-there, Imagery, Imagined, Inspirational, Inspires, Life-affirming, Makes-history-live, Nostalgic, Optimistic, Real History, Really-rather-good, Reborn, Resigned, Resolute, Restored, Spine-tingling, Tact, Thrilling, Understanding, Uplifting, Valiant, Vivid

The Eagle of the Ninth 3 Word Reviews 1.1 at June 1st 2015

What do readers think is the best book by Rosemary Sutcliff, and why

Collecting views about Rosemary Sutcliff’s (1920-92) best book of all her historical fiction, and children’s and young adult literature.

I am trying to collect here in the comments (and via Twitter @rsutcliff) people’s views about which is Rosemary Sutcliff’s best book, and why….

List of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books

In Praise of Rosemary Sutcliff, historical novelist and writer for children| An editorial in The Guardian newspaper

From the cover of Rosemary Sutcliff's autobiography The Blue Remembered Hills

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.

Michael Rosen commented on this editorial:

Interesting that she was writing about the end of an empire at the end of…er…an empire. And does the search for the lost legion echo/refract Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?

Some of us drank in The Eagle of the Ninth two ways: once as a BBC Children’s Hour serial and second time as the book. I can remember hurrying to get home to hear it – moody, dangerous, mysterious – a quest for something real but long gone, a possible solution to an unsolved story…and somehow it had something to do with events that happened a long time ago just where you walked when we were on holiday: on moors, or on wet fields where we were camping. The book made a connection for me between a past and that particular present.

Rosemary Sutcliff, eminent author of children’s literature, prided herself on not writing down for children

Rosemary Sutcliff carefully creates dialogue in her novels that recollects the speech of a bygone era without falling into what she termed “gadzookery.”

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature has an entry on historical novelist and writer of literature for children, Rosemary Sutcliff. It comments on her use of language:
Critics of Sutcliff’s work sometimes comment on its difficulty both in terms of the language she employs and in terms of the historical depth her novels embrace. But for Sutcliff herself, these sorts of evaluations of her writing were welcomed as compliments. She prided herself on never writing down to her readers, expecting them instead to be enticed into enjoying a compelling and demanding tale by the pageantry of history and the warm humanity of people in every era. She carefully creates dialogue in her novels that recollects the speech of a bygone era without falling into what she termed “gadzookery.”
  • Source: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. Ed. Jack Zipes. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Rosemary Sutcliff’s original publisher OUP throw out nature words she uses from their children’s dictionary

List of words ejected by publishers OUP from their children’s dictionary, many of which appear in their author Rosemary Sutcliff’s books

The Oxford University Press are the original publishers of Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels for children. So it worries me greatly me to learn that in their most recent Junior English Dictionary they have removed a wealth of words about nature, many of which appear in those self-same books—and probably in other more recent children’s books which OUP are happy to profit from. They have removed:

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy,porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

It is also astonishing that they have thrown out such words as:

carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

dwarf, elf, goblin

abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Apparently they have made room for such words as these instead:

blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue

celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate,

EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic,

allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro

apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify,

chronological, block graph

Source: http://www.naturemusicpoetry.com/news-and-blog/literary-stars-support-naturewords-campaign