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Christina Hardyment’s life of Thomas Malory was published by HarperCollins. In 2012 she reviewed a 50th anniversary re-publication of Rosemary Sutcliff’s bestseller Sword at Sunset—an Arthurian era novel—which was, in 1963 when it was first published, “firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.”
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 Dustyfeet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.
Sword at Sunset is, unusually for Rosemary Sutcliff, is a story told in the first person. Artos becomes the High King of Britain but his fate has been written ever since he was drugged and seduced by his half-sister Ygerna. Their child Medraut becomes a boy filled with hate by his mother.
…(Sutcliff) drew as much upon the archaeology of Celtic and Saxon Britain as on the ancient legends in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and Guest’s Mabinogion. She also admired T. H. White’s four idiosyncratic Arthurian novels (now known as The Once and Future King), and the intensity with which she inhabits the mind of her hero Artos has echoes of White’s extraordinary characterisation of Arthur. ‘I have never written a book that was so possessive,’ Sutcliff said in an interview in 1986. ‘It was almost like having the story fed through me’. Writing as a man possessed her; afterwards, ‘I had great difficulty getting back into a woman’s skin.’
Her narrative amazes in the sheer vigour of its visualisation and its sure sense of purpose. Lanterns, sunsets, fires, the aurora borealis and other manifestations of light recur: Artos is holding back the coming of the dark long enough for there to be hope that the civilised light that was Rome will survive to be adopted by its conquerors. Battles are heart-stopping, tense and unpredictable, winter weather effects are frostbite-inducing, and Artos’s travels across Britain are confidently mapped …
No-one would dream from reading Sword at Sunset and Sutcliff’s other action-packed, fast-moving tales of Roman and Celtic warriors that she remained severely crippled all her life with the juvenile arthritis she contracted as a very small child. Once one is aware of this, a recurring theme of incapacitating wounds is better understood; as is the important role she gives to the hounds and horses in which she found such consolation.
Oyster in New York claims that it offers “unlimited access to over 100,000 books for $9.95 a month, with new titles added all the time.”
Of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset they post:
This brilliant Arthurian epic cuts through the mists of pagan, early Christian, and medieval splendors that have gathered about the subject and tells the authentic story of the man who may well have been the real King Arthur—Artos the Bear, the mighty warrior-king who saved the last lights of Western civilization when the barbarian darkness descended in the fifth century.
Presenting early Britain as it was after the departure of the Romans—no Round Table, no many-towered Camelot—the setting is a hard, savage land, half-civilized, half-pagan, where a few men struggled to forge a nation and hold back the Saxon scourge. Richly detailed, the story chronicles the formation of a great army, the hardships of winter quarters, the primitive wedding feasts, the pagan fertility rites, the agonies of surgery after battle, the thrilling stag hunts, and the glorious processions of the era. Stripped of the chivalric embellishments that the French applied to British history centuries ago, the Arthurian age here emerges as a time when men stood at the precipice of history—a time of transition and changing values and imminent national peril.
Suomentanut Tapio Hiisivaara. Kustantanut Weilin + Göös.
Rosemary Sutcliffin romaanit liikuvat usein historian ja fantasian välimaastossa. Niin myös tämä kirja, joka kertoo Artos Karhusta, maalaistytön pojasta, jossa isän puolelta virtaa roomalaisen sotilaskeisarin ja Britannian kuninkaiden verta. Artos on urhea soturi ja tunteellinen mies, onnekkaampi sodassa kuin rakkaudessa.
Mutta Artoksella on kutsumuksensa. Hän on koonnut oman ratsuväkijoukon ja taistellut koko elämänsä ajan Britanniaan tunkeutuvaa pakanallisten saksien heimoa vastaan.
Kirjailija on saanut virikkeen pyöreän pöydän ritarien tarustosta, kuningas Arturin henkilöhahmosta.
Posted in Autobiography & Biography, Criticism, Reviews, Research, Awards, tagged Arthurian, books, Carnegie Medal, children's literature, historical fiction, Romans, young adult fiction on January 23, 2014 | 3 Comments »
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…)
The author of the blog A Book Worm, has posted at the You Write tab on this blog:
My first Sutcliff book was The Sword in the Circle, which I was given while on holiday in Tintagel back in 1985. I was four and it was my first ‘grown-up’ book. I loved it then and love it still. For a decade or so I reread it and the other books that make up the Arthur trilogy, every couple of months.
I loved all of the Sutcliff books I came across but it was this one that pretty much formed much of my character. I still re-read the book from time to time, and it still has the same impact on me now as it did back when I was younger. I will be forever grateful to Rosemary Sutcliff for writing such amazing books. In fact there is a special thank you to here on my blog.
Now might have to just dig out my copy of Blood Feud, haven’t read that one in a while……