Rosemary Sutcliff has written some of the finest contemporary recreations of the Arthurian story

Raymond H. Thompson (Author)  interviewed Rosemary Sutcliff for the periodical Avalon to Camelot in 1986. In the introduction he wrote:

Though perhaps best known for historical novels set in Roman Britain, such as The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), Rosemary Sutcliff has written some of the finest contemporary recreations of the Arthurian story. She introduces us to Arthur in The Lantern Bearers (1959), a book for younger readers that won the Carnegie Medal, and in Sword at Sunset (1963) she continues his tale in his own words. She has also retold the Arthurian legend with clarity and elegance in Tristan and Iseult (1971), The Light Beyond the Forest (1979), The Sword and the Circle (1981), and The Road to Camlann (1981). Her later novels were set in the more recent past, but she returned to Dark Age Britain for her … novel The Shining Company (London: Bodley Head), which is based upon the Gododdin. This poem, composed about 600 A.D. in North Britain by the bard Aneirin to commemorate a band of British warriors who fell in battle against the Angles, is of special interest in that it provides us with the earliest mention of Arthur’s name and Sutcliff’s novel preserves the Arthurian echoes.

Source:  Interview with Rosemary Sutcliff | Robbins Library Digital Projects.

Rosemary Sutcliff on writing the story of King Arthur

Historical and children’s fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a book for adults (as opposed to children) about King Arthur – Sword at Sunset – a best seller in the UK in 1963. She said twenty years later:

I had determined from the time that I was very young that there was a real person there, and that I would love to find and reconstruct that person. […] Most of the actual research I did for the book (Sword at Sunset), apart from knowing the Arthurian story from the romance versions, was into Dark Age life and history as far as they were known. Then I worked into this setting the Arthur who seemed to me to carry weight, to be the most likely kind of person. It was very strange because I have never written a book which was so possessive. It was extraordinary–almost frightening. […] I would take the book to bed with me at night, and work there until I dropped off to sleep about two o’clock in the morning, too tired to see any more. Then I would wake up about six o’clock, still thinking about it. It was addictive. It was almost like having the story fed through to me, at times. I do my writing usually in three drafts, and I would go from the first to the second draft, from the second to the third, and find bits of the book that I had no recollection of having written at all.

Source: From Raymond H. Thompson’s interview with Rosemary Sutcliff  in August 1986

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Rosemary Sutcliff novel Sword at Sunset helped engineer recover

The Sword at Sunset (US paperback)

Eric Eller described himself as a ‘recovering chemical engineer’. Of Sword at Sunset he wrote:

Rosemary Sutcliff‘s Sword at Sunset stands out for its raw emotion and storyline stripped down to the essentials … This novel makes other versions, no matter how much fantasy and magic are injected, pallid by comparison. Other authors have recreated a gritty, ‘realistic’ Arthur since Sutcliff introduced the idea more than forty years ago, but this first attempt at that take on the Arthurian legend still stands out as the best.

(A post from four years ago)