Tuesday 21 January 2014

Thank You Miss Sutcliff

Yesterday I read 'Bird, Blood, Snow' by Cynan Jones, this is part of a series retelling stories from the Mabinogion and is well worth a read. Jones tells the story of Peredur/Percival and manages to transpose it to a modern setting quite skillfully. I was impressed that Jones managed to retain so much of the violence found in the original story, while moving it all to a modern Welsh housing estate. The modern world reacts towards this casual violence as you would expect, by bringing in the Police and Social Services; but for the character of Peredur the magical aspects of the original are maintained. I am hopeful that the other books in the series manage to blend the old and new as well, if they do then the series will serve as a great transition between Lloyd Alexander's 'Chronicles of Prydain' and the actual Maginogion.

  Once I'd read Jones's book I had to go and read a more traditional telling of the Percival story. To do this I went straight to my copy of 'The King Arthur Trilogy' by the wonderful Rosemary Sutcliff. I was first given a copy of her ''The Sword in the Circle' while on holiday in Cornwall back in 1985. I was four, and it was my first 'grown-up' book. I have adored it since then reading and rereading it and the following books that complete the trilogy, between the ages of four and fifteen I probably read these once every couple of months and I genuinely believe that it was these books that made me who I am today. It sparked my love of reading, and the blend of chivalry, magic, faith, drama and romance touched my soul deeply. I still reread the book now, despite knowing it almost by heart, and it is still perfect for me. I still cry when I read the story of Tristan, and the Lancelot of Sutcliff's writing is still the standard that I judge men by. Over the years I read many of Sutcliff's other books, and especially enjoyed 'Blood Feud' which was televised during the 1990s, but it was her Arthur Trilogy that maintained it's place close to my heart. Reading these books led me to find the myths of the ancient world (Enid Blyton's 'Tales of Long Ago' also helped here), as well as helping me find other great historical fiction by people like Anya Seton and Jean Plaidy. rosemary Sutcliff set me on my way. If I had never found this book then I would not be me, so I want to send out a thank you to Miss Sutcliff from the bottom of my heart.

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