Archive for the ‘The Eagle of the Ninth Book’ Category

Lindsey Davis writes detective novels set in classical Rome, featuring the world of maverick private eye and poet Falco. On the publication in 2009 of the nineteenth of what became a bestselling series of novels known for their meticulous historical detail, she chose Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth as one of her top ten Roman books.

‘Somewhere about the year 117AD, the Ninth Legion, which was stationed at Eboracum, where York now stands, marched north to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes, and was never heard of again.’ Hooked? If not, there’s no hope for you. A wonderful novel, for children of all ages.

via Lindsey Davis’s top 10 Roman books | Books | guardian.co.uk

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Titanic Death on the WaterWriting at the Guardian Children’s Books site, Tony Bradman selected Rosemary Sutcliff’s  1954 historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth as one of the best stories ‘featuring fathers and sons’.

The Eagle of the Ninth was published in 1954, the year I was born, but I must have read it for the first time when I was 12 or 13, just after my Tolkien phase. Like many other Sutcliff fans, I was gripped by this story of a young man travelling from the soft south of Roman Britain to the wilds beyond Hadrian’s Wall where the Scots were still very independent indeed. Marcus Flavius Aquila is on a mission to find out what happened to his father’s legion, the 9th Hispana, which marched north into the Caledonian mists and was never seen again.   (more…)

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Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth is currently ‘in print’  in English throughout the world published by OUP (Oxford University Press), and in twelve other languages (Language -Publisher):

Dutch – Facet
French – Gallimard
German – Freies Geistesleben
Greek – Aiora
Japan – Iwanami Shoten
Korean – Sigongsa
Portuguese – Gradiva
Portuguese (Brazil) – Record
Romanian – Literar
Russian – Azbooka
Spanish – Plataforma
Swedish – Barnstenen
Turkish – Ithaki


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I am not persuaded that this commentator correctly characterises Esca’s relationship with Marcus in Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth. Rosemary’s view of the slave-master relationship is not a ‘romantic’ one. Nor did the film The Eagle ‘fail’, although it was not as successful in the eyes of all the critics and with audiences as was intended by the makers! But there is ‘a lot of … provocation’ to be gained from the comments as well as the book!

I love ancient Roman history but Sutcliff writes so clearly and articulately that I don’t think a young reader, without knowledge of this period, is at a real disadvantage, except maybe in terms of their interest. Americans are predominantly interested in American history, of course, and there is a long and very rich tradition of children’s American historical fiction. A lot of it focuses on the slave experience, but Eagle takes the opposite view. Here, perhaps, is where the book might run into trouble with a non-British readership: Esca, Marcus’ slave, is written quite romantically, as a devoted indentured servant who would follow his owner to the ends of the earth. This is very out of sync with most modern literature (for obvious reasons) and really dates the book. It is a unique challenge for young readers to imagine this story from Esca’s perspective, and I think a really valuable exercise. The somewhat-recent film version starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell is decidedly not child-friendly but at the same time works to rectify these elements.

I truly believe that this element of the book should not stop modern readers from enjoying this text. Maybe it’s a bit optimistic of me, but I really do think that there’s a lot of enjoyment and provocation to be gained from this book and I hope that the failure of the film (well… I liked it… no one else did) doesn’t dissuade you from enjoying it. ★ ★ ★ ★ /5

Source: presenting… books!

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Cover of Japanese Edition of The Lantern Bearers

Rosemary Sutcliff won the Library Association Carnegie Medal in 1959 for her historical novel for children (“aged 8 to 88″ in her view) The Lantern Bearers. The Medal is awarded every year in the UK to the writer of an outstanding book for children. First awarded to Arthur Ransome for Pigeon Post, the medal is now awarded by CILIP: The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Both the Carnegie Medal and its sister award, the Kate Greenaway Medal are awarded annually. The 2012 shortlist was recently announced, and the winners will be named on Thursday 14th June.

The Library Association started the prize in 1936, in memory of the Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), a self-made industrialist who made his fortune in steel in the USA. The winner now receives a golden medal and some £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice. Rosemary Sutcliff also won or was nominated for many other awards in the UK and USA. (She won other awards in translation). She

Full list of Carnegie Medal winners here

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David Urbach has pointed me to a blogger’s 10/10 review of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth.

Rosemary Sutcliff’s most famous book ought to be looked at in two different ways, and judged on two levels. Firstly, any reader venturing into historical fiction will be instantly drawn to it as a deserving classic. Every word of praise afforded The Eagle of the Ninth is surely deserved, and every criticism should be scrutinised heavily. This book is not only a simple story; it is a revelation. It is a sudden meeting between the children’s and young adults’ fiction of the ’80s and ’90s, when children’s literature began to be taken seriously; and literature from the early twentieth century and the nineteenth century, when writers felt able to wax philosophic and lyrical, and were not so concerned with spending a hundred pages on diligently establishing a scene and building meticulously to a grand climax or a cheap twist.
Source: The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff  | Library of Libation

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All of which set me thinking about poems and songs in Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels. Such as the snatches of a legionnaires’ song in The Eagle of the Ninth.

Oh when I joined the Eagles
(As it might be yesterday)
I kissed a girl at Clusium
Before I marched away
A long march, a long march
And twenty years in store
When I left my girl at Clusium
Beside the threshing-floor

The girls of Spain were honey-sweet,
And the golden girls of Gaul:
And the Thracian maids were soft as birds
To hold the heart in thrall.
But the girl I kissed at Clusium
Kissed and left at Clusium,
The girl I kissed at Clusium
I remember best of all

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review of Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel The Flower of Adonis, historical fiction for adults, said

The Flower of Adonis is an excellent grown-up novel on the theme of Alcibiades, if the Peloponnesian War and Athens in the fifth century BC interests you. As for Eagle of the Ninth, I became (briefly) an archaeologist partly because of the book. All I know about Roman toilet behaviour I learned from her at the age of 12!

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As highlighted by Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian last year, Rosemary Sutcliff once wrote  in her great historical novel and classic of children’s literature The Eagle of the Ninth about a ‘ battle fought through the grey drizzle of a west country dawn (which) is illuminated by “firebrands that gilded the falling mizzle and flashed on the blade of sword and heron-tufted war spear” ‘. I drew attention to this article once again with a post last week. Someone tweeted in response that they were surprised to come across ‘mizzle’ as a noun. Hence this set of tweets  in the  last 24 hours (read from the bottom):

On Mizzle in Rosemary Sutcliff's writing

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Rosemary Sutcliff crafted her historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth from two starting points: a small bronze eagle found at Silchester, which is now in Reading Museum; and the unknown fate of the Roman Ninth Legion, which, based in York, had apparently vanished from the historical record in the early years of the 2nd century. Written, as always, “for children aged 8 to 88″ The Eagle of the Ninth is about a young centurion, Marcus Aquila, who takes up his first command on the edges of the Roman empire in south-west Britain. Severely injured during a fight with local warriors who have been inflamed by a travelling druid, he has to give up his military career. However, he  hears rumours of sightings of  the standard of his father’s lost legion – the eagle of the ninth –  north of Hadrian’s wall. He realises that if he can find it, he will restore the honour of his disgraced father and the legion he commanded.

Last year, at the time of the release of the film The Eagle, Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer of The Guardian newspaper, wrote a long, affectionate article about her children’s favourite.

… In an interview in 1992, the year she died, she said: “I don’t write for adults, I don’t write for children. I don’t write for the outside world at all. Basically, I write for some small, inquiring thing in myself.” I have read The Eagle of the Ninth dozens of times; and as the reading self changes, so does the book. When I last read the story, it was the quality of the prose that delighted, the rightness with which Sutcliff gives life to physical sensation. A battle fought through the grey drizzle of a west country dawn is illuminated by “firebrands that gilded the falling mizzle and flashed on the blade of sword and heron-tufted war spear”. (more…)

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