Saturday, December 17, 2016

A good read...

One of the many delights of being retired is the freedom to enjoy reading in that immersive fashion which just doesn't work when you read a page or two each night before dropping off.

As a child, I read a lot.  This was partly because electricity had yet to reach us, so we had gas-light, but no television.  We did not read in bed as the lighting there was in the form of Kelley lamps - small oil lamps which gave just enough light to undress by.  It sounds like another century, as indeed it was - the twentieth century.

In the top juniors I discovered the works of Rosemary Sutcliff, which I wolfed down.  My elder sister, never an avid reader herself, was already at the grammar school in town, from which it was possible to access the Town Library at lunchtimes.  I remember reading "Dawn Wind" in an evening.  My sister protested because changing my books every day seemed a bit excessive to her. She had a point.

Now, of course, I just switch on my Kindle and there the whole of Sutcliff's oeuvre is waiting to be downloaded.  "Warrior Scarlet", "The Eagle of the Ninth", "Frontier Wolf", "Outcast", "The Mark of the Horse Lord" - the list goes on and on.  Those familiar themes of the central character, maimed or disabled in some way, as she was herself, trying to make his way in the world.  And the astonishing way in which she uses details of the Roman world as though she had lived that life.  Everywhere detailed descriptions of landscape, trees, plants and the changing of the seasons.

Just one or two of them, perhaps for younger children, seem overburdened with period detail for the sake of it, but mostly she creates a fully realised world.

I had not read her adult fiction.  Here she is more likely to adopt a female perspective, as in "Lady in Waiting", telling the story of Walter Ralegh from his wife's viewpoint.  Or "The Rider of the White Horse" about the English Civil War and Thomas Fairfax.

Sutcliff's memoir of her own childhood, and the agonising story of her early, doomed love affair, "The Blue Remembered Hills" gave some insight into her studies of loneliness and endurance.

If you have not read any Rosemary Sutcliff, or not for some time, you have a feast in store.

6 comments:

Irene Pieters said...

I clearly remember reading her books, but the best story was The eagle of the nineth. Over here , in the Netherlands, it's difficult to find her books by now. I also remember reading the books by Elisabeth Goudge, both children's and adult stories. Wonderful to read!

Hat said...

The Eagle of the Ninth was serialised on Childrens' Hour (Home Service?) when I was a child and I can remember being enthralled. The book that really got me reading a wider variety was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. It was in the "Library" (three shelves of books, a high percentage of which were Enid Blyton, in our form room when I was ten years old). I bought my own paperback copy when I was 18 just to see what I thought of it with many years of reading under my belt. I still enjoyed it.

Ian Wardell said...

I've never heard of her. As a child I read mostly Blyton.

Mary Lou said...

I loved Rosemary Sutcliffe. Roman Britain became a fascination for me. Many (many) years later I went to the UK when my goddaughter was doing a year in Newcastle. My first comment to her was we can see Hadrian's Wall! We had TV but access was carefully controlled, so I read constantly. I am off to find Sutcliffe on Kindle. Happy New Year!

knitski said...

Thanks for the share on this author. I must have a look!

Janet McKee said...

I have almost always been an avid reader, but Rosemary Sutcliffe was not an author I took to. Maybe I should try again now that I am immersing myself in English history. Elizabeth Goudge is one of my all time favorites. That dates me! And Armstrong Sperry.