My attention was drawn on Twitter to a review in just three words of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth:
Courageous. Resolute. Gripping.
This set me wondering how other readers of Rosemary Sutcliff would review The Eagle of the Ninth in just three words.
Responses in comments below, please! Or on Twitter to @rsutcliff. I’ll collate them here; and retweet on Twitter.
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Rosemary Sutcliff was an internationally acclaimed British writer for children, one of the best of the 20th century. Romey (as I knew her) is not around to answer those sets of questions sent by magazines for brief celebrity profiles; she dies in 1992. Some answers to imagined questions can be deduced from Rosemary Sutcliff’s own words in her 1983 session on BBC Radio’s ‘Desert Island Discs‘. Where were you born?
To my shame I have to admit that I was born in Surrey, but I count myself as a West Country woman, as a Devonshire woman.
You were very ill as a child; what happened?
I contracted juvenile arthritis. A spinal carriage was rather like a coffin; it was very uncomfortable, and you lay flat out in this thing, and of course all you could see were the branches of the trees or the roofs of the houses going by overhead. And it was extremely boring. With any luck you were perhaps allowed to sit up on the way home from a walk.
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Posted in Autobiography & Biography | Tagged interviews, questions & answers | 5 Comments »
There was an intriguing post late last year (2014) at The Economist’s Buttonwood Blog about Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth.
… Our leaders make promises to get elected but cannot fulfil them because of forces outside their control; this adds to voter cynicism.
… (For example) the hard power of military force. In recent weeks, we have seen Western governments struggle to come up with a strategy to contain ISIS, and forced to watch helplessly as hostages are beheaded. A decade of intervention (and billions of spending) leave Iraq and Afghanistan no more stable than before; Libya is less stable; there are regular atrocities in Nigeria; and so on.
The hard power of the West means that few countries would be foolish enough to put an army or navy into the field against it. But they don’t need to do that to cause massive disruption; the West is vulnerable at a million points because of its open model and worldwide network.
The example that springs to mind … is The Eagle of the Ninth, a rattling good yarn by Rosemary Sutcliff based on the story of the Roman ninth legion which (on some accounts) vanished in the wilds of Scotland. In the book and film (The Eagle), the soldiers are swallowed up in the mists, and picked off by local tribes. …
In other words, conquest of territory is one thing; holding that territory is quite another, in the face of the hostility of the local population. Perhaps the only “successful” approach is the ruthlessness of Genghis Khan—wiping out or enslaving the men and women—and that is rightly not an option.
So does all this matter to the global economy, or are the markets right to shrug their shoulders, and treat terrorism and rebellions as background noise? I think it does matter for a couple of reasons. For a start, economic globalisation depends on the different power blocs agreeing to co-operate in order to smooth the flow of trade and investment. But the example of Russia and Ukraine shows that co-operation can break down and Japan/China tensions may cause something similar.
Secondly, this powerlessness adds to voter dissatisfaction. I’ve dubbed this the “Starbucks problem” —people get their coffee exactly the way they want it, with soy milk, wet or dry etc—and they expect politics to be the same way. But you could also dub this the Hollywood problem. We are used to seeing Spiderman or Bruce Willis save the day and the enemies being soundly defeated. But real life is not like that.
Our elected leaders are dogged by Monday-morning quarterbacking as pundits and rivals declare that if only they had been tougher (or only if they had not been involved in the first place) said disaster would not have happened. If only we had bombed Syria in 2013, things would be better—maybe, but maybe ISIS would now be in charge in Damascus. Again, this voter dis-satisfaction may lead to electoral success for those who have simplistic solutions (blame the foreigners, blame the minorities at home) and this will only make matters worse. And then the markets will really have something to worry about.
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Responding to the recently posted new ‘interview with Rosemary Sutcliff’, Helen writes:
1997 Newbery Honor Book children’s author Megan Whalen Turner (author of the historical fantasy series The Queen’s Thief) was a Rosemary Sutcliff fan. She writes about this in the afterword of her first novel, The Thief:
“…writes historical fiction the way Rosemary Sutcliff used to. If Sutcliff‘s name keeps appearing, it is because she [is] one of the authors who have influenced me the most.”
“If a writer has inspired me, I like to make a reference to their work inside my story …The Thief has an indirect quote from The Eagle of the Ninth. If you read it you will find an object there whose description I have copied as closely as I can for The Thief.”
This item—the Aquila family Dolphin Ring—features in many of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s Roman Britain books. Turner goes on to list The Eagle of the Ninth, Warrior Scarlet, The Shield Ring and Knight’s Fee on her list of favourite ‘old ‘books.
The Newbery Medal, named after the eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery, is awarded annually by the US Association for Library Service to Children to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. At the same time some runner-up books are called Newbery Honor Books.
This is the full list of ‘old’ children’s books that Megan Whalen Turner recommends—”This is just a quick list of some of my favourite old books”.
- Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne
- Puck of Pook’s Hill, Rudyard Kipling
- The Enchanted Castle, E, Nesbit
- The Treasure Seekers, E. Nesbit
- Half Magic, Edward Eager
- The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff
- Warrior Scarlett, Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Shield Ring, Rosemary Sutcliff
- Knight’s Fee, Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
- Midnight is a Place, Joan Aiken
- Go Saddle the Sea, Joan Aiken
- Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
- Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones
- Drowned Ammet, Diana Wynne Jones
- The Children of Green Knowe, L. M. Boston
- The Secret of the Twelves, Pauline Clark
- The Crime of Martin Coverly, Leonard Wibberly
- Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Time, Jane Louise Curry
- The Perilous Gard, Elizabeth Marie Pope
- The Sherwood Ring, Elizabeth Marie Pope
- The Dancing Bear, Peter Dickinson
- The Weathermonger, Peter Dickinson
- Heartsease, Peter Dickinson
- Playing Beatie Bow, Ruth Park
- The Princess and Curdie, MacDonald
- The Princess and the Goblins, MacDonald
- Mocassin Trail, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
- Little Britches, Ralph Moody
- Tom’s Midnight Garden, Phillipa Pearce
- Minnow on the Say, Phillipa Pearce
Posted in Autobiography & Biography, Influence and Inspiration | Tagged Fantasy, Newbery Medal | 1 Comment »