Let us not be solemn about the death of Rosemary Sutcliff CBE, who has died suddenly, aged 72, despite the progressively wasting Still’s disease that had been with her since the age of two. She was impish, almost irreverent sometimes, in her approach to life. Her favourite author was Kipling and she once told me she had a great affection for The Elephant’s Child – because his first action with his newly acquired trunk was to spank his insufferably interfering relations.
But it was Kipling’s deep communion with the Sussex countryside and its history that was her true inspiration. Settled as an adult in Arundel, Rosemary shared with him his love for his county as well as his vision of successive generations living in and leaving their mark upon the landscape.
Rosemary Sutcliff, at the peak of her form in her ‘Roman’ novels, was without doubt an historical writer of genius, and recognised internationally as such. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Criticism, Research, and Reviews’ Category
Chronicler of Occupied Brittania | Rosemary Sutcliff’s life and work | Obituary from The Guardian newspaper
Posted in Arthurian, Autobiography & Biography, Criticism, Research, and Reviews, Influence and Inspiration, Newspapers, tagged Arthurian, books, Carnegie Medal, children's literature, historical fiction, Romans, young adult fiction on January 23, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Sadly stuck behind their pay-wall are The Times Archives. In January 1983, within a long interview by Caroline Moorehead, Rosemary Sutcliff said of actually visiting battle sites:
“Modem times are a hindrance. The natural features of the land have been lost.”
Mind you, such research trips would anyway always have been a major project for her, given her severe physical disabilities. Some other quotes from Rosemary Sutcliff from the article are:
On writing her memoirs Blue Remembered Hills:
l happened to have a winter free. I was in between books. And being an only child, with far older cousins, who else is there to remember? And it was a happy childhood.
On periods of history she avoided:
I can’t get inside the medieval skin. I find the complete permeation of religious life too much for a free-thinker like myself, and beyond the eighteenth century is too cloak and dagger for my taste.
On when she wrote:
I hit that sudden post-war flowering of children’s literature and the golden age of – the Oxford University Press.
On her rocking horse, Troubador:
About 15 years ago I decided that I was old enough, ugly enough, and successful enough, to indulge my eccentricities.
A self-described “bookseller, reader, science fiction; fantasy writer, photographer, and gluten-free cook”, who signs her “name E. M. Epps”, gave a “thumbs up” for A Circlet of Oak Leaves by Rosemary Sutcliff at her blog “This space intentionally left blank”. She wrote”
A little novella taking place in Roman Britain. A slight book, but beautifully written as I would expect from Sutcliff.
“So he took them on, through a vicious squall of slingstones. Where the ground grew too steep to ride they dropped from the horses and ran on, crouching with heads down behind their light bronze-rimmed bucklers. By the time they reached the spur, hearts and lungs bursting within them, he had no idea how many or how few were still behind him; he had no chance to look round. He did not even know that many of the horses, lightened of their riders ‘ weight, had come scrambling after them, bringing their own weapons, the stallions’ weapons of teeth and trampling hooves, into the fight. He only knew that the time came when there were no more Painted Men left alive on the spur, and that the terrible boulder [perched above them], swaying as it seemed to every breath, was still there.”
Posted in Arthurian, Books and Stories, Criticism, Research, and Reviews, The Eagle of the Ninth Book, The Lantern Bearers, The Light Beyond the Forest, The Road to Camlann, The Shining Company, The Sword and the Circle, Tristan and Iseult, tagged Arthurian on December 23, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
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.
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…)
Writer, journalist, and very knowledgeable Rosemary Sutcliff critic Amanda Craig has lost her job as children’s book reviewer at the Times newspaper. The role is to be brought “in-house”.
“Children’s literature is one of Britain’s greatest national treasures and it’s not something you can hope to cover well in-house,” she told The Bookseller for their article covering her firing.
Around the time of the release of the film The Eagle (of the Ninth) based upon the best-selling The Eagle of the Ninth she wrote about the “rediscovery” of “this great writer”. I am with the comments of living writers reported in the Bookseller:
Neil Gaiman said he was “enormously disappointed” by the decision to lose her, calling her “a perceptive champion of children’s books”. Francesca Simon said Craig had been one of her early champions and called the newspaper “crazy to lose her expertise”.
Let us hope Amanda moves, as she hopes, to another national “with a more far-sighted vision of how readers are made”.
Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for The Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dusty-feet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.
In 1954, The Eagle of the Ninth introduced Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman who chooses to stay in Britain after the legions leave. Seven subsequent books follow his family’s fate, usually directly. The odd book out is the fifth, Sword at Sunset, now published in a new edition to celebrate its 50th birthday. In 1963, it was firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.