Arthurian story by Rosemary Sutcliff | The Sword and the Circle | Republished with 19 other children’s classics by Puffin

Puffin books have redesigned 20 classic books, covering 80 years of children’s fiction — bringing together fairy tales and fantasies, historical adventures and comic mis-adventures, in A Puffin Book list 20 classics.

The Sword and the Circle new 2015 Puffin Edition

Guardian text on Rosemary Sutcliff The Sword and the Circle

All covers here

Internationally acclaimed historical novelist and writer for children, Rosemary Sutcliff, could not read when nine years old

Why read to yourself when you can get somebody else to read to you?

Rosemary Sutcliff once told an interviewer:

“At the age of nine…I was not yet able to read…(but) Why, after all, read to yourself when you can get somebody else to read to you?”.

She explained that her mother used to read to her “a rich and somewhat indigestible stirabout of literature” which included the British stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood, myths and legends of the classical world and Scandinavia, The Wind in the Willows (by Kenneth Grahame), The Tailor of Gloucester (by Beatrix Potter), Treasure Island (by R. L. Stevenson), Nicholas Nickleby (by Charles Dickens), Kim Puck of Pook’s Hill (by Rudyard Kipling), and Little Women (by L M Alcott).

  • Source—(2002) B A Drew, 100 More Popular Young Adult Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 1563089203

Rosemary Sutcliff’s books are a magic carpet to the past

Historian, writer and journalist  Christina Hardyment judged Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff to be  an ‘odd one out’.

Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for The Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dusty-feet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back and an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.

In 1954, The Eagle of the Ninth introduced Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman who chooses to stay in Britain after the legions leave. Seven subsequent books follow his family’s fate, usually directly. The odd book out is the fifth, Sword at Sunset, now published in a new edition to celebrate its 50th birthday. In 1963, it was firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.

Continue reading “Rosemary Sutcliff’s books are a magic carpet to the past”

Former UK MP Roy Hattersley said in 1982 Rosemary Sutcliff’s Arthurian The Road to Camlann a “beautifully written parable”

I have found an article from 1982—which is new to me— by ex-MP and Minister Roy Hattersely about Arthurian legend, and  Rosemary Sutcliff ’s The Road to Camlann.

Roy Hattersely writes about Rosemary Sutcliff

 

Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff | Reviewed in the Independent by Christina Hardyment in 2012

Cover of 2012 Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff  published by Atlantic BooksChristina Hardyment’s life of Thomas Malory was  published by HarperCollins. In 2012 she reviewed a 50th anniversary re-publication of Rosemary Sutcliff’s bestseller Sword at Sunset—an Arthurian era novel—which was, in 1963 when it was first published, “firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.”

Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for The Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dustyfeet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.

Sword at Sunset is, unusually for Rosemary Sutcliff, is a story told in the first person. Artos becomes the High King of Britain but his fate has been written ever since he was drugged and seduced by his half-sister Ygerna. Their child Medraut becomes a boy filled with hate by his mother.

…(Sutcliff) drew as much upon the archaeology of Celtic and Saxon Britain as on the ancient legends in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and Guest’s Mabinogion. She also admired T. H. White’s four idiosyncratic Arthurian novels (now known as The Once and Future King), and the intensity with which she inhabits the mind of her hero Artos has echoes of White’s extraordinary characterisation of Arthur. ‘I have never written a book that was so possessive,’ Sutcliff said in an interview in 1986. ‘It was almost like having the story fed through me’. Writing as a man possessed her; afterwards, ‘I had great difficulty getting back into a woman’s skin.’

Her narrative amazes in the sheer vigour of its visualisation and its sure sense of purpose. Lanterns, sunsets, fires, the aurora borealis and other manifestations of light recur: Artos is holding back the coming of the dark long enough for there to be hope that the civilised light that was Rome will survive to be adopted by its conquerors. Battles are heart-stopping, tense and unpredictable, winter weather effects are frostbite-inducing, and Artos’s travels across Britain are confidently mapped …

No-one would dream from reading Sword at Sunset and Sutcliff’s other action-packed, fast-moving tales of Roman and Celtic warriors that she remained severely crippled all her life with the juvenile arthritis she contracted as a very small child. Once one is aware of this, a recurring theme of incapacitating wounds is better understood; as is the important role she gives to the hounds and horses in which she found such consolation.

Press cuttings about historical novel Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff in 1963
Press cuttings in 1963 on Sword at Sunset, bestselling Arthurian novel by Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92)