Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rosemary Sutcliff Bibliography

A listing (with images of covers) on the Fantastic Fiction site.

Film of The Eagle of the Ninth

According to the Scotsman newpaper some two years ago, there are three films in preparation related to the disappearance of the Ninth Legion. The report notes that "Duncan Kenworthy, London-based producer of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually, acquired the film rights to Rosemary's The Eagle of the Ninth, which has sold more than a million copies since its appearance in 1954, and was made into a BBC mini-series shot in Aberdeenshire in the 1970s."

Tullie House - museum and art gallery in Carlisle, Cumbria, Lake District, UK

Those who read The Eagle of the Ninth will be thrilled (according to the Guardian!), as I was, to know that in Tullie House Museum in Carlisle is a tile stamped with the insignia of the Roman legion that vanished from the records after being based in northern Britain. (This is the subject of the novel).

Sutcliff and the North East of England

Alan Myers has compiled an "A to Z of the many writers of the past who had a significant connection" with the North-East of England. He writes of Rosemary:

"One of the most distinguished children's writers of our times, Rosemary Sutcliff wrote over thirty books , some of them now considered classics. She sets several of her best-known works in Roman and Dark Age Britain, giving her the opportunity to write about divided loyalties, a recurring theme. The Capricorn Bracelet comprises six linked short stories spanning the years AD 61 to AD 383, and Hadrian's Wall features in the narrative. The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) is perhaps her finest work and exemplifies the psychological dilemmas that Rosemary Sutcliff brought to her novels. It is a quest story involving a journey north to the land of the Picts to recover the lost standard of the Roman Ninth Legion. A good part of the book is set in the North East around Hadrian's Wall (a powerful symbol) and a map is provided. The book has been televised, and its sequels are The Silver Branch (1957) and The Lantern Bearers (1959), which won the Carnegie medal. Sutcliff returned to the Romano-British frontier in The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) and Frontier Wolf (1980).

Northern Britain in the sixth century AD is the setting of The Shining Company (1990), a retelling of The Goddodin (v. Aneirin) a tragedy of epic proportions. The story, however, is seen from the point of view of the shield-bearers, not the lords eulogised in The Goddodin and treats themes of loyalty, courage and indeed political fantasy."

Commentary on the Roman Britain historical novels

Eric Eller describes himself as "a recovering chemical engineer. After more than enough years puttering around chemical plants, scholarly publishing sounded like more fun and he now works in Publications for the American Chemical Society. Somewhere along the way (I) got an MA in Liberal Studies from the College of Notre Dame, kick-starting (my) interest in literature". This commentary on connections between The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, Frontier Wolf, The Lantern Bearers and Dawn Wind is in the Green Man Review.

He has also written about Sword at Sunset.

Seven Best Historical Children's Novels

I find that Amanda Craig, a writer herself, has cited two books by Rosemary in her Seven Best Historical novels, on Amazon. They are Capricorn Bracelet and The Eagle of the Ninth. If any reader has made similar lists, do tell me.

I have never read any of Amanda's novels, but my wife says that Vicious Circle (a satire on the literary world) was excellent.

Monday, August 29, 2005

More spelling Sutcliff wrong...NOT with an e!!

Great that a bookshop in England picks Rosemary's Eagle of the Ninth as a 'top pick'. Shame they cannot spell her name right....but then again nor can Penguin Books ... and nor can Jeremy Ford who recalls his illustraions related to her books ... and nor can this American site

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Writing for ages 8 to 88 ...

Rosemary once said of her writing: "The themes of my children's books are mostly quite adult, and in fact the difference between writing for children and for adults is, to me at any rate, only a quite small gear change." (Townsend, John Rowe. 1971. A Sense of Story. London: Longman p201)

Book Awards won include ...

Library Association Carnegie Award for The Lantern Bearers in 1959
Boston-Globe Horn Book Award for Tristan and Iseult in 1972
Highly Commended by the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1974
The Other Award for Song for a Dark Queen in 1978
Phoenix Children's Book Award for The Mark of the Horse Lord in 1985

The Lantern Bearers: A Review

With The Lantern Bearers Rosemary won the Carnegie Medal in 1959 . This is a review from America.

I discovered Rosemary Sutcliff in my early teens, and she quickly became one of my favorite authors. I can still vividly recapture the magic of reading her books. It was a real pleasure to return to The Lantern Bearers, which I first read when I was about thirteen, and find the magic still intact.

Published in 1959 and reprinted several times since, The Lantern Bearers is set in the seventh century A.D., at the close of the Roman period in Britain. When the last Roman troops are recalled to Italy, Aquila, the young commander of a troop of cavalry, discovers that his love of his native Britain is stronger than his loyalty to a distant empire he has never seen. He deserts, and returns home. But the Saxon threat is looming, and soon after his return, Aquila’s home is overrun by Saxon raiders. His father is killed and his sister Flavia kidnapped, and he himself is captured and made a thrall in a Saxon household. Three years later, he and Flavia meet again in a Saxon camp, and Aquila discovers that she has married a Saxon and has had a child. Though she helps Aquila to escape, he cannot forgive her for what he sees as a profoundly dishonorable surrender to the enemy.

Bitter at Flavia’s betrayal and consumed with hatred for the Saxons, Aquila travels north to offer his service to Ambrosius, a Celtic prince who is the last inheritor of Roman authority in Britain. Over the fifteen years that follow, Aquila takes part in the long battle to throw the Saxon invaders back into the sea--years of suffering and sacrifice but also of love and friendship, in the course of which Aquila learns to relinquish his bitterness, and to better understand his sister’s choice. In the end, the decisive victory is won, and Ambrosius is crowned High King of Britain--a final defiant lifting of the light of Romano-Celtic civilization against the encroaching barbarian dark.

The Lantern Bearers is a wonderful book. Sutcliff possesses a unique gift for character and description, evoking a sense of place and person so intense that the reader can almost see her characters and the world in which they move. She has a matchless ability to establish historical context without a surfeit of the “let’s learn a history lesson now” exposition that mars many historical novels for young people. Her books are never less than meticulously researched, but her recreation of the past is so effortless that one has no sense of academic exercise, but rather of a world as close and immediate as everyday.

The Lantern Bearers isn’t truly a fantasy novel, but it does touch upon one of the great fantasy themes: Arthur, future High King of Britain, whom Aquila first encounters as a child in Ambrosius’s camp. The Arthurian theme was one of Sutcliff’s favorites: she produced several young adult books on the subject, as well as a beautiful adult novel, Sword at Sunset, to my mind one of the best ever written in this genre. But the Sutcliff's Arthur is rooted as much in history as in myth--not just the tragic king of Le Morte d’Arthur or the heroic/magical figure of traditional Arthurian fantasy, but a man who might actually have existed, heir both to the memory of Rome and to the last great flowering of Celtic power in Britain.

In the course of her career, Sutcliff wrote nearly forty books. Many of them are still in print, testifying to her enduring popularity. It is richly merited: she is, quite simply, one of the best.

Copyright © 1997 Victoria Strauss

US Notes for Teachers

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux: publish some of Rosemary's books in the US. They put notes for teachers on the web.

Books in Danish

Rosemary's books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Hayao Miyazaki likes Rosemary's books

Hayao Miyazaki is, I understand from the website of Diana Wynn Jones, one of Japan's foremost living fantasy film-makers. A correspondent writes "In the 1980s and 90s, his animations stormed the Japanese box-office, and his recent animé, Princess Mononoke, is currently the biggest-earning Japanese film ever. Miyazaki is a fan of such books as The Wizard of Earthsea; The Prisoner of Zenda; the novels of Rosemary Sutcliff; and a mix of classic SF. As a teenager, Miyazaki saw Legend of the White Snake (Hakujaden) (1958), the first colour Japanese feature cartoon. He was entranced by its heroine Pai-nyan, a snake spirit who becomes human. Ever after, Miyazaki's films have been noted for their strong, self-reliant heroines."

Maybe one day he will do an animation of Song for a Dark Queen!

Dutch information (I think)

I found this today while searching with Copernic.

Some covers

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rosemary Sutcliff in Canada

Random House publishes some of Rosemary's books in Canada.

Eagle Of The Ninth : The 1976 BBC drama

Details of the BBC version of Eagle of the Ninth. Rosemary loved the portrayal of Marcus by Anthony Higgins. Patrick Maldahide played Cradoc. (He is currently in Sahara!)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Some pictures of Rosemary


This brief piece was written by Rosemary for the "Emotions in Focus" exhibition of erotic art by disabled people mounted as a celebration of the International Year of Disabled People 1981, which was opened at The Round House, London by Victor Lownes and sponsored by The Arts Council of Great Britain .

Career-wise, I'm one of the lucky ones. My job, as a writer of books, is one of the few in which physical disability presents hardly any problems. I would claim that it presents no problems at all but my kind of book needs research, and research is more difficult for a disabled person. I am less able to see for myself or dig priceless information out of deeply hidden archives. I have to rely more on other people's help and on libraries. And even libraries can present problems -like one which shall be nameless - which is very proud of its ramp to its entrance but keeps its entire reference department upstairs, with, of course, no lift.

Still, I am one of the lucky ones - not for me the heart-breaking business of convincing employers that I am employable. I work at home and if I produce a book which the publisher considers worth publishing, it gets published.

But there are drawbacks. Writing is known, amongst writers, to be just about the loneliest way of making a living that there is - even for the able-bodied writer. It is a job done completely alone in a world inhabited only by oneself and the creatures of one's own creation In the 'Real world, one's contact with other people tends to suffer. For the disabled writer, it suffers doubly. Because I am fairly badly disabled, I cannot go off and do things on my own. Unless I can find a friend who wants to see the play I want to see, or who is going to the gathering I want to go to, I don't get there. This means, amongst other things, a surprising loss of privacy. I can never do anything that someone else doesn't know about.

I am lucky in having good friends and of course my work brings me into contact with publishers, editors, librarians and the like. People intelligent enough to realise that I am simply another person who happens to have physical difficulties that they don't. But of course, there are those, not friends but stray contacts of life who adopt the 'does she take sugar?' attitude. It was one of these - a blue rinsed American lady in a hotel foyer in Athens, who asked my accompanying friend if she had brought me with her on her holiday.

"No," said my friend, "She has brought me."
"My, my, how nice!" said the blue rinsed lady, kindly but obviously not believing a word of it.
"And is she enjoying herself?"
"You'd better ask her," said my friend.
"Sure," crooned the blue rinsed lady, "and can she walk at all?"

Now, I am not, I swear it, touchy or hypersensitive but, at that point, I heard a small clear voice that did not seem to be mine at all but to be hanging in the air about a foot in front of my nose, saying: "Yes, she can a little. As a matter of fact she can speak, if poked in the stomach, and even answer questions, if asked nicely."
The blue rinsed lady's mouth opened and remained open. My friend said hurriedly, "I think it's time we went and changed for dinner," and we trundled off, leaving that kind and well-meaning lady to recover herself.

In the privacy of our own room we laughed ourselves silly. After which I began to shiver with something that fell like shock, though it was probably only repressed fury. I went on shivering most of that evening and could certainly not enjoy my dinner, I felt too sick.

Dear (able-bodied) Reader, if ever in Athens or Tooting or Timbuktu, you find yourself about to take refuge in the 'does he take sugar' approach to someone disabled, do think again.

Source: Exhibition Guide, 1981

PLEASE: Rosemary Sutcliff without an e!

I was delighted to find that a primary school in Kent is recommending Rosemary to students and parents; but a little dismayed that they spell her name wrong. In fact, if you Google 'Rosemary Sutcliffe' with an e (as I have just done) you find many versions of this error in schools and in bookshops. Indeed, one of her publshers made this mistake in the promotional blurb for one of her books that they published , but I will draw a veil over that!