Recollections and reflections on reading Rosemary Sutcliff | Inspired by a Guardian editorial

Many people are moved and inspired by UK author Rosemary Sutcliff.

A Guardian editorial in March 2011 “In praise of … Rosemary Sutcliff” prompted various people to comment fondly and intriguingly upon their reading of her books, often in a childhood some years past.

liberalcynic said

I have to say I loved Rosemary Sutcliff‘s books when I was a kid. They opened undiscovered worlds and – perhaps more importantly – they didn’t talk down to my eleven year old self

thegirlfrommarz also “loved Rosemary Sutcliff’s books as a child” and “still loves them as an adult”. Like liberalcynic she thought that ” … they never talked down to you”. The Eagle of the Ninth was one of her favourites, although Continue reading “Recollections and reflections on reading Rosemary Sutcliff | Inspired by a Guardian editorial”

“Historical fiction breathes life into the bare bones of history” | Rosemary Sutcliff

Rosemary Sutcliff spoke to a ‘Children’s Literature New England’ conference in 1989, in Cambridge (UK). Her contribution was entitled ‘History and Time’. At one point she told an anecdote to indicate that she saw her task as a historical novelist to be to breathe life into the bare bones of the accounts of academic historians and teachers.

Many years ago, when I was sure of myself as only someone scarcely out of their apprenticeship can be, I was talking to an audience of school teachers in the Midlands that are sodden and unkind, when a County Inspector of Education stood up and asked what was my justification for writing historical novels, which he clearly considered a bastard form, instead of leaving the job to legitimate historians who knew what they were talking about. I looked him straight in the eye and said: “Historians and teachers, you and your kind, can produce the bare bones, all in their right order, but still bare bones. I and my kind can breathe life into them. And history is not bare bones alone, but a living process.” Looking back I’m rather shaken at my hardihood, but I still think I was right.

  • Source: Historical Fiction for Children: Capturing the Past by Fiona M. Collins, Judith Graham. Routledge (2013). p 112

Historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff had a mystical communion with the past, and an uncanny sense of place

Historical novelist and doyenne of children’s literature Rosemary Sutcliff had ‘a mystical communion with the past’, according to one of her editors. Her best work was in the ‘50s and ‘60s, beginning with The Eagle of the Ninth and ending with The Mark of the Horse Lord.

Someone who was once briefly Rosemary Sutcliff’s editor (I do not know where or when) used to post as Antonius Pectinarius at www.ancientworlds.net . He believed her best work was in the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with The Eagle of the Ninth and ending with The Mark of the Horse Lord which was his own favourite. Writing in 2003, he said:

She had, as did Henry Treece, a mystical communion with the past, which enabled her both to recreate tiny details, and to confound military historians with her understanding of the art of battle in any situation she cared to devise. Her sense of place was uncanny, in that she could get no nearer to a site than the seat of a car on an adjacent road. Friends often served as her eyes, and also as her researchers, but it was the conclusions she drew from the evidence, and her re-creations of them, that made her contribution to the literature about the ancient world so distinctive.

Where she was simply embellishing recorded history, she was no better than anyone else.

She also had one of the rudest senses of humour in anyone I have met.

Source: Rosemary Sutcliff—more appreciation.

Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel of the Peloponnesian War, The Flowers of Adonis, republished by Endeavour Press 2014

Endeavour Press have now republished in E form Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical fiction novel The Flowers of Adonis, about Alkibiades, who The Times in an interview to mark its publication in 1969 called “one of the most enigmatic figures in Greek History”. It is a novel of the Peloponnesian War, and Alkibiades’s relationship with Athens, and the dreadful battle at Syracuse.
Times Oct 27 1969 on Rosemary Sutcliff

 

  • Source: The Times, October 27, 1969, p6

Newspaper review of The Flower of Adonis by historical fiction writer Rosemary Sutcliff about enigmatic Ancient Greece hero Alkibiades

Poor research: I clipped this from a newspaper in 2010, but I did not note which one!

(But see comments below for more details)