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

Cover of Sun Horse, Moon Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff | UK Hardback edition

Rosemary Sutcliff imagined the story behind the magical White Horse of Uffington for her 1977 children’s book (historical fiction) Sun Horse, Moon Horse. It involved the Epidi (meaning “Horse People”), a tribe that had also appeared in her earlier 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth. In the author’s note to the original publication she wrote:

If any of you who have read it have also followed the adventures of Marcus and Esca in The Eagle of the Ninth, and think that Lubrin’s people are not very like the Epidi who they found when they went north to rescue the eagle of the lost legion, I can only say that when I wrote that story, I had not read (T. C. Letherbridge’s bokk) Witches. And if I had, I would have made them a slightly different people. Though, of course, they might have changed quite a lot in more than two hundred years.

Earlier she explained the origins of her story, in a book by T. C. Letherbridge and an unusually old White Horse:

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In 2009, Lindsey Davis—writer of classical thrillers, creator of private investigator and poet Falco—listed in The Guardian newspaper her top ten books from her “shelves and shelves” of Roman material. She included Rosemary Sutcliff in “ten that are scholarly but user-friendly …  all books I have enjoyed, all influenced my love of ancient Rome and most of them are in regular use for my work”.

Of The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff, she wrote:

Somewhere about the year 117 AD, 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.

With excerpts from her remarks, her other nine choices were:  (more…)

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The Times newspaper published in mid-2013 a list of the top 50 ‘books that all children should read’, which included Rosemary Sutcliff’sThe Eagle of the Ninth (at number 27). Of course all such lists reflect the preferred reading of the selection panel and it is good, indeed essential, to know who was on the panel. In this case it was: Amanda Craig (then Times children’s books critic), Lucy Coats (author), Wendy Cooling (founder of Bookstart), Tom Gatti (Times Saturday Review editor), Katherine Langrish (blogger and author), Anthony McGowan (author), and  Nicholas Tucker (children’s literature specialist). Their list:

  1. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  5. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  6. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
  7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  8. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  9. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
  10. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
  11. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  12. Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
  13. The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
  14. Just William by Richmal Crompton
  15. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  16. The Midnight Folk by John Masefield
  17. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  18. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
  19. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
  20. Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde
  21. Hellbent by Anthony McGowan
  22. The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban
  23. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
  24. The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones
  25.  The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
  26. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White
  27. The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
  28. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  29. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  30. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  31. The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
  32. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  33. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
  34.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  35. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  36. One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
  37. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
  38. The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy
  39. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  40. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  41. Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
  42. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  43. The Snow-walker’s Son by Catherine Fisher
  44. Holes by Louis Sachar
  45. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
  46. Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
  47. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
  48. Vice Versa by F. Anstey
  49. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  50. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

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Robin Rowland used to write a blog about his writing life (he was a TV journalist) called The Garret Tree. Some eight years ago he posted When I waited for Rosemary Sutcliff

When I was a kid, Rosemary Sutcliff was my J. K. Rowling. In the early 1960s, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Sutcliff. I lived in northern British Columbia and the waiting involved finding out when the book would arrive in the public library. In Kitimat, British Columbia, a town carved out of the bush, there were no bookstores. The local variety store and the stationary store both carried popular paperbacks delivered at the same time as magazines. 

For me, Rosemary Sutcliff created a world just as magic as Rowling’s. Somewhat like Hogwarts and Harry it was an alternative British universe. Many of her books followed one scattered family for a millennium or more, through the history of Britain from the ancient Celts through the Roman conquest and occupation, the collapse of the empire, the Saxon invasion and into the Middle Ages. It was both familiar (especially since my parents were British) and   (more…)

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Three years ago Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth inspired one blogger to go exploring!

The Roman History Reading Group’s first read for 2010 is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth, part of which is set in Calleva Atrebatum. As it’s quite near where my parents live, I set out one cold and frosty morning to have a look at what remains of Calleva Atrebatum today. The remains are near the village of Silchester, not far from Reading.

Calleva Atrebatum means something like “the Atrebates’ town in the woods” (not that different from Silchester!). The Atrebates were a Celtic tribe living in this area, with links to a tribe of the same name living in Gaul. Although the town itself has disappeared, its walls are still standing. It took me about 2 hours to walk the circuit of 2.8 km, but that was with lots of stops for photographs. The shape is roughly speaking a diamond with the top point at the North.

North east wall

Find the whole article and all the photographs on his blog here.

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Over at the Facebook page for Rosemary Sutcliff  readers have been robust about  the error of The Booktrust’s ways in excluding Rosemary Sutcliff from their attempt to list the 100 best children’s books of the last 100 years. I asked for help in compiling a broadside.

I’m not sure this will help, but the books I enjoyed when I was 11 still engage me at 63! I’ve never felt that Rosemary Sutcliff writes for children alone. There’s probably no more poignant tale than The Lantern Bearers. Also, she has a talent for dialogue in an historical context which is unsurpassed. Most children’s authors have nothing remotely like it. (Roy Marshall)

Rosemary Sutcliff’s books last in the mind and heart. I am 63 now and they stand out as Beacons from my childhood. I have reread many in mid and later life and they are even better. I am with Roy, The Lantern Bearers is my favourite – so evocative and of our own end times too. (Rob Patterson)

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman books, starting with the Eagle of the Ninth (but I read all the others – The Mark of the Horse Lord was probably the one that really inspired me), were one of the influences that led me to study archaeology.

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A quotation from Rosemary Sutcliff at the goodreads site - unfortunately without a reference  (does anyone know it?) – gave me pause for thought as I reflected upon the changed ending to the story of The Eagle of the Ninth for the film The Eagle. Perhaps that is a reason after all to celebrate that the film was not (in English) called The Eagle of the Ninth. But perhaps also I should not have been so sanguine about the changed ending when asked to comment by the press when the film came out a couple of years ago now. In any event, this is a thought-provoking note on which to re-energise this blog, now that I am six months into my stint with a new day-job! To regulars….apologies for the silence….and to commenters….apologies for some long delays in approving so that comments are published.

“I do not think that you can be changing the end of a song or a story like that, as though it were quite separate from the rest. I think the end of a story is part of it from the beginning.”

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James Dunlop has commented on another post:

My 1977 copy of The Eagle of the Ninth (by Rosemary Sutcliff) still has the entry from the Radio Times (with a photo of Anthony Higgins as Marcus … ) glued inside the front cover. I’ve also got a page torn out of the Radio Times lurking somewhere – I was nine at the time and it made a really big impression on me. I’m now an archaeologist who really doesn’t have much time for Romans, but when I re-read The Eagle of the Ninth last year, I still found Marcus a really lovely – and yet at the same time convincingly Roman – character.

Oh, and I remember there was that bit with the dream where the ghost legionaries turned round and had skulls instead of faces. That stayed with me for YEARS!! I was freaked out by skeletons for decades afterwards (though I’ve grown out of that little foible now, thank goodness!)

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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. (See here for previous post).

Regular commenter here  and Rosemary Sutcliff enthusiast Anne has reminded me (via the You Write tab above) of this, and alerted me to some intriguing homage, newly paid. For Anne was ‘tickled’ when reading Lindsey Davis’s  latest novel, Master and God, to find a nod to Rosemary Sutcliff when a soldier mentions a legionary marching song. It appears again in the acknowledgements at the back: “The Girl I Kissed at Clusium”’: The Legionary Song in The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.

In Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel the snatches of song are:

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

(Thank you Anne)

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Rosemary Sutcliff's Warrior Scarlet hardback coverAustralian writer Nansi Kunze wrote at Michael Pryor’s blog about her “favourite book”, Rosemary Sutcliff’s Warrior Scarlet. The author of Dangerously Placed (‘Can a hippy chick, a goth girl in a lab coat and two guys with a taste for blowing things up really help solve the mystery – before Alex becomes the next victim?’) and Mishaps (‘Why does Pen’s name strike terror into the heart of pop princess Sereena? And just how far will Pen go to get what she deserves?’), grew up in both Australia and the UK.

I think I must have been ten when I began to read Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. It was a strange time for me – a confusing and somewhat lonely one. My parents had split up, and we had gone back to England, leaving my friends, my school and the various treasures a ten-year-old deems precious behind in Australia.  (more…)

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