British writer of children’s historical fiction and retellings of legends like of King Arthur and Beowulf, Rosemary Sutcliff, turns 100 today. She was born on 14 December 1920 in East Clandon, Surrey. I don’t remember quite how I came across her books (it wasn’t the movie), but I found her books set in Roman England, The Eagle of the Ninth and The Lantern Bearers and enjoyed them very much, and plan to read more, especially her King Arthur books. Since I didn’t know very much about her, I decided to look her up a little, and here are a few interesting facts I came across.
- As a child Sutclifff was diagnosed with Still’s Disease, a version of juvenile arthritis which is incurable and left her with permanent disabilities and confined to a wheelchair for most of her life.
- Due to her ailment and the fact that the family moved frequently, she was educated at home by her mother, who introduced her to Celtic and Saxon legends.
- Her passion for Romans is said to have stemmed from her childhood when she was entranced by the Roman stories in Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling (This is one I like very much as well). She went on to also write a monograph on Kipling in 1960.
- At the age of 14, she entered the Bideford School of Art. She completed art school and worked as a successful professional miniaturist before she turned to writing. This gave her a detailed and fine way of looking at her subjects.
- She wrote over 50 books, and while most of her books were for children, some were for adults such as Lady in Waiting, published in 1957 which tells the story of Bess Throckmorton, the wife of Walter Raleigh. Sutcliff’s books have been translated into fifteen languages.
- Though she had limited use of her hands, she wrote all her books in longhand.
- Despite her health problems, she managed to travel to Greece for research on her books.
- Among other awards, Sutcliff won the Carnegie medal in 1959, the Boston-Globe Horn Book Award in 1972, and the Phoenix award twice in 1985 and 2010. Besides these she received four other Carnegie Honor Medals and was runners-up in 1974 of the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
- She was named OBE in 1975 and CBE in 1992; and made a fellow of the Royal Society for Literature in 1982.
- Sutcliffe loved dogs, had dogs (that ‘usually barked and frequently nipped people’ as her godson and cousin Antony Lawton writes here), and dog companions featured in her books as well.
Have you read any of Sutcliff’s books or do you plan to? Which ones and if you’ve read them, which are some favourites? Have you watched the Eagle film? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
- Sources: https://rosemarysutcliff.com/rosemary-sutcliff-brief-biography-sutcliff/
- Cover images from Goodreads as always.