Dates mattered to Rosemary Sutcliff; they matter in history; and in excellent historical fiction like hers. (See post yesterday, building on an article in The Guardian). From year to year she carried foreword notes about addresses, key contacts and the dates of her books, usually in a blue Challenge notebook. This page records the little story books for children that she published with Hamish Hamilton. The notebook is here propped on her writing chair – a Captain’s chair.
topics and books
- Rosemary Sutcliff on writing historical novels and children’s books: “I start with an idea, never a plot” and “I do not write to a standard length”
- Aim for the stars and you may end up on a lamp-post | Author Rosemary Sutcliff’s motto
- My inspiration | Tony Bradman on historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff
- In 1988 Rosemary Sutcliff was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 by Penelope Lively in children’s book programme Treasure Islands
- In 1984 Rosemary Sutcliff spoke on BBC Radio 3 about the lure of Roman and Celtic Britain
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the guardian newspaper in praise of rosemary sutcliff
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.