Thursday, 3 October 2013

July 2013: Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease and our next meeting

Today we journeyed from the Cumbrian fells to the theatres on London's South Bank as we reviewed Geoffrey Trease's Tudor adventure story, Cue For Treason (1940).

Trease was a prolific author, who has been described as "a defining force in 20th century children's historical fiction, plucking the genre from the post-Henty doldrums and casting historical writing into a new shape".  (  Born in Nottingham in 1909, he went up to Queen's College Oxford but didn't complete his degree, becoming a journalist and a teacher while beginning his writing career.  In 1933, Trease and his wife moved to Bath before living in both Abingdon in Oxfordshire and Malvern in Worcestershire.  The Treases returned to Bath in their later years, and by the time of Geoffrey's death there in 1998 he had produced some 113 books, with other manuscripts yet to be published.  Despite this vast output, there were a number among us for whom he was a new and welcome discovery.

Trease rarely disappoints, and this beautifully told story of Peter Brownrigg -an ordinary 14 year old from the Lake District who falls in with the mysterious but pleasingly alliterative Kit Kirkstone and a band of travelling players, joins Shakespeare's theatre company and becomes a spy in Robert Cecil's secret service - was fast-paced and historically precise without being teacherly.  Cue for Treason provides us with all of Trease's hallmarks: believable characters, refreshingly strong female characters (so unusual for the time it was written), and that strong sense of social justice which is central to all of his writing.

There were so many memorable scenes for us to recall and discuss, from the battle around Peter's home, to the scene where Peter and Kit are on the point of being murdered by miners, and Peter's vertical climb up the wooden wall of a London Thames-side house using knives stuck in the planks to spy on the man in the yellow trousers.

As Jim Mackenzie writes: "The energy of the book is undeniable. If you have never read it and you have grown to adult years, it is still possible to enjoy the uncluttered plot, the marvellous pace and the brilliantly sketched scenes of countryside adventure and London squalour."

Our next book is Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories.  This will be my last meeting as convener and blogger.  After more than two years, it's time for me to sign off.

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