21 March 2007

Sutcliff reviewed: The Shining Company (July 1990)

Reliving a glorious past -
Children's Books
Sunday Times, The (London, England)
July 15, 1990
Author: Susan Hill
Estimated printed pages: 5

Rosemary Sutcliff has never tried to ingratiate herself with young readers by making her prose bland and easily digestible. The complexities ofher style are not gratuitous, but reflect the depth and complexity of her subject-matter. Those without an innate historical sense or taste need to be encouraged to read her, because they discover that she not only makes bare facts ``come alive" but attempts to make sense of them, and to illuminate legend, in human terms. She is also an extraordinarily rich, exciting and poetic writer. To those of my generation who thrilled to The Eagle of the Ninth, it is a pleasure to read her latest book, The Shining Company (Bodley Head Pounds 7.99), and find her still at the height of her powers.

The inspiration for it comes from an early northern British epic poem such sources are often the triggers for her fiction about 300 young, keen warriors belonging to the tribe of King Mynyddog in 600 AD who were brought together and trained for a year, as a fighting brotherhood, before being sent out against the invading Saxons. The hero is Prosper, son of Gerontius, a shieldbearer to one of them, and the story concerns him, his close friends and confederates, and his bond-slave. It is a remote time, and values and customs are completely alien to those of our own, particularly the concept of fealty and loyalty to a king, an individual lord, a blood brother. Rosemary Sutcliff gets under the skin of adventurous young men in trying to reveal what made them follow a leader and give their lives gladly in his service. It is as inspiring, and tragic, as any similar war story involving a ``shining company" of golden boys, and this intricate, compellingly imagined and beautifully told story makes period and people sympathetic and comprehensibl in our own time.

http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.new
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8 March 2007

BBC's Eagle of the Ninth, 1977

Finally, I found a good photo of BBC's 1977 series of Eagle of the Ninth, showing Aqulia leading his troops. Details of the production can be found here. Marcus Aquila was played by Anthony Higgins. This scene, was, I think also briefly shown in Togas on TV recently, along with a couple of other scenes. Any chance of a DVD release please of the whole series, Auntie Beeb?

From a pedant's point of view, the armour looks dodgy. As it's AD 117 they'd be OK with lorica segmentata, but it looks like scale armour. And the helmets are odd too. Perhaps they are auxiliaries? Nethertheless, I'd rather have a well acted drama with naff costumes than nothing at all ...

27/7/2017 Edit: See this blog post for links to the whole series on YouTube!

28 February 2007

Sutcliff and Simon Schama (October 2000)

Television Review
Independent, The (London, England)/Financial Times
October 5, 2000
Estimated printed pages: 3

THE PROBLEM with the past is that it just won't stay put: it's always shifting to accommodate our needs, our assumptions about the sorts of people we are. Not long ago, I re-read Rosemary Sutcliff's children's story, The Silver Branch, which is set in Britain towards the end of Roman rule. When I first read it, 25 years ago, I took it as a fairly faithful recreation of the period; second time around, what was striking was how obviously it was the product of the time it was written, the 1950s. The story has two young Romano- British patriots on a spying mission in Saxon-occupied Britain - sleeping in haylofts, evading the brutal Germanic invaders with the help of friendly locals: it's basically a Second World War resistance yarn transposed to the fourth century.

By contrast, Sunday's opening episode of A History of Britain by Simon Schama (BBC2) presented a much gentler picture of the same period. Schama disdained talk of "apocalypse" in favour of gentle change - Roman Britannia "morphed" into the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; the process was "an adaptation, not an annihilation".

Partly, no doubt, the differences between Sutcliff's picture and Schama's reflect advances in understanding. But Schama's version also said something about the way we live now: this was history for a multicultural society, one that embraces difference and defines its relationships with the outside world in terms of trade and economics, not wars and empires. Schama depicted the Roman occupation of Britain in similarly benign terms - the odd violent episode aside, it was a matter of seduction rather than conquest. Hadrian's Wall was depicted as a conduit for trade, not a military frontier.

Full article at:
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Film rights

I've been contacted recently by someone from the US trying to find out if a particular book by Rosemary Sutcliff has had the film rights bought. I've passed her onto Anthony Lawton, needless to say. But she did ask if there were any 'fun' titles I'd like to see on film ... I told her the books that are most often mentioned by fans I've met (Eagle of the Ninth* and Mark of the Horse Lord), plus threw one in of my own (Sword at Sunset). Lets see if it comes to anything in the coming years ...

But which of Sutcliff's books would you like to see on the big screen?

*Yes, I know that Eagle of the Ninth was serialised by the BBC, but it's a fat lot of good if the Beeb neither shows it now, nor issues it on DVD

27 November 2006

Flowering Dagger

On exploring Google Book Search, I found a Rosemary Sutcliff short story. It's called Flowering Dagger and is in a collection called Within the Hollow Hills: an anthology of new Celtic writing, edited by John Matthews, published 2000 by Steiner Books. A few sample pages can be found here. It was originally published in The Real Thing, edited by Peggy Woodford, Bodley Head, 1977. Other contributors include: Robin Williamson, R.J. Stewart, Caitlin Matthews, David Spangler, Peter Vansittart, Henry Treece and Margaret Elphinstone, plus others.

Other books by or mentioning Sutcliff extracted on Google Book Search include: The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of "The Odyssey", Essential Fiction Genres Student Book by Peter Ellison, 100 More Popular Young Adult Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies by Bernard A. Drew, Honey for a Child's Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys M. Hunt, Killing the Celt by Tomas Runmhar, Black Ships Before Troy: the story of the Iliad, etc.

27 October 2006

Update on searching this blog

If you want to search this blog specifically (to see if we've covered something) there is now a way to do this properly. In the bar on the right of the screen there is a Technorati search box. Just type in what you're looking for, and it'll bring back the results.

26 October 2006

22 July 2006

Sending in cover shots

Ross kindly asked about sending in other cover shots of Sutcliff's books. People are always welcome to do this, but please note the following:

1. So you don't waste your time, check the blog's archives first to see if it's already been included. You can either trawl through the monthly archives (see right-hand side bar) or search the blog, using the search facility at the very top of the screen. However, I've just tried it now, searching on Sword at Sunset, and it's only brought up the msot recent blog! Perhaps it's not working properly at the moment? I have tried to give the posts clear headings, so you should be able to pick the titles out pretty easily.

2. Ensure your image is about 25kb. A bit higher or lower is OK, but I'm still on dial-up, so anything really large takes ages to download. I'm also then in the position of editing the image down anyway for uploading to the blog. So keep the images of a modest size.

Looking forward to seeing some new covers!

21 July 2006

UK Hardback Cover: Sword at Sunset




















Sword at Sunset, Bookclub, 1963
With thanks to David Mace who sent this to us.

20 April 2006

Song for a Dark Queen: brief review

Tony Keen, in his blog comments briefly on Song for a Dark Queen.

Update on 23rd April: Tony Keen comments on Rosemary Sutcliff.

10 April 2006

Teachers' Guide for Sutcliff's novels

Thank you to Sarah Johnson for mentioning this on her blog:

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux's (Sutcliff's US publisher) 12 page Teachers' Guide brochure

2 December 2005

A Rosemary Sutcliff editor

I recently came across the Ancient Worlds website. They have a forum for Children's Literature and this post by one of Sutcliff's editors will doubtless be of interest. Here is the same poster acknowledging that Sutcliff is out of fashion. And here are some comments on Sutcliff's book in general.

UK Hardback cover: Sword Song


Sword Song, Bodley Head, 1997

14 October 2005

UK Paperback cover: The Lantern Bearers


The Lantern Bearers, Oxford University Press, Paperback, 1972

5 September 2005

Dutch cover: The Lantern Bearers


Dutch The Lantern Bearers, supplied by Robert Vermaat: awaiting details.

Spot the deliberate mistake. Lorica segmentata went out of use probably around the 3rd century; the story is set in the 5th century.

Dutch hardback: Sword At Sunset


Dutch Sword At Sunset, supplied by Robert Vermaat: awaiting details.

Definitely the Richard Harris effect again ... But at least he's not in a grumpy mood this time!

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