Archive for the ‘Sword Song’ Category

Publishers Farrar, Straus and Giroux produced a teachers’ and readers’ guide about the books of Rosemary Sutcliff (that they pubished!). It is undated, covering ” the award-winning trilogy set in Roman Britain as well as Outcast, The Shining Company, Sword Song, Tristan and Iseult, and Warrior Scarlet”. The historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliff, it says: (more…)

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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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It has always annoyed me that Bernard Cornwell and his publishers considered it acceptable to call his 2008 novel of Saxon England ‘Sword Song’, when that had been the title Rosemary Sutcliff had chosen for her final historical novel ten years earlier! It shows a disappointing lack of respect by one writer of another in the same genre, historical fiction.

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword Song was  a novel set in Viking times. It was in handwritten manuscript form on her desk when she died. I recall transcribing it from her elphin-scrawl handwriting. It was intriguing painstakingly to follow the story of Bjarni as he was cast out of the Norse settlement in the Angles’ Land for an act of oath-breaking, to spend five years sailing the west coast of Scotland and witnessing the feuds of the clan chiefs living there.

I was pleased that in The Times newspaper, in August 1997, Sarah Johnson  called the opening of Sword Song a ‘stunner’: ‘beat that Melvin Burgess!’ she wrote. However she found the story ‘meandering’. But I loved that meandering, in and out of the Dublin slave market, for example.

 Rosemary Sutcliff’s … posthumously published Dark Ages saga Sword Song is packed with precisely described Viking sea battles and sacrifices in a linguistic smorgasbord of thongs, thralls and fiery-bearded men. I was never a Sutcliff fan as a child, tiring too quickly of the sun glinting off the halberds of people with names that sound like Haggis Bogtrotterson, but the opening of Sword Song is a stunner: a sixteen-year-old boy is exiled from his settlement for the manslaughter of a monk who had kicked his dog. Beat that, Melvin Burgess.

Regrettably, the story quavers thereafter, meandering around the coast of Britain as young Bjarni sells his fighting skills to one fiery-beardy after another, but the dense historical detail and rich colours are all still there.

Source: The Times, August 23, 1997

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A Twitterer, who is “reading Knight’s Fee now” asks “is there a chronology of (Rosemary Sutcliff) books re the family with the dolphin ring?”. I think it goes like this – but do put me right any of you Rosemary Sutcliff experts out there … And does anyone know or recall WHY a dolphin is the image on the ring?

The Eagle of the Ninth (AD 133),
The Silver Branch (about AD 280),
Frontier Wolf (AD 343),
The Lantern Bearers (AD 450),
Sword at Sunset (immediately follows the time of The Lantern Bearers)
and Dawn Wind (AD 577).

The  sequence of stories of the descendants of Marcus Flavius Aquila, hero of The Eagle of the Ninth, continues with Sword Song (about AD 900) and The Shield Ring (about AD 1070).

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The final Rosemary Sutcliff children’s book Sword Song, a Viking novel, was in handwritten manuscript form on her desk when she died. I recall transcribing it from her elphin-scrawl handwriting at my own desk in our attic. I was pleased that in The Times newspaper,  in August 1997, Sarah Johnson  called the opening of Sword Song a ‘stunner’: ‘beat that Melvin Burgess!’ she wrote. (more…)

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Macmillan: Farrar Strauss Giroux, publishers of Rosemary Sutcliff in the USA, have a teacher’s Guide to their Sutcliff books: Teacher’s Guide to Rosemary Sutcliff from Farrar Strauss Giroux.  I live in hope that some teachers find their way to this post and tell me if it is any good! It covers: (more…)

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The Crawdad Hole has a long post on Sword Song – I have not found this to be written about as much by readers. I love the book because I transcribed it from Rosemary Sutcliff‘s hand-written draft manuscript left on her desk when she died suddenly in 1992. Her long-time editor Jill Black finalised it for publication.

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