Sunday, 28 September 2014

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930)

This choice of book prompted at least one member of our group to overcome her phobia of Ransome's books - prompted by her local library's editions of plain hardback editions (without their coloured slip-cases).

The large amount of specialised sailing language (tacking, painters, reefing) for anyone not born and bred on the waters of Lake Coniston can form a barrier to Ransome's books. However, our readers decided (on the whole) that it was worth perservering, and that the story and the characters - as well as Ransome's illustrations - evoked a rich child-centrered world in which imagination and reality weave in and out of one another.

The degree of freedom, independence and responsibility accorded to the children in Swallow and Amazons is remarkable by modern standards. Their father's telegram, permitting them to go on a camping trip on Wild Cat Island in the Lake District reads:


Ransome's many fans have been inspired by his books to promote exploring, camping, sailing and a more adventurous approach to life.

While he is best remembered as a children's author, Ransome also spent time as a foreign secretary in Russia over the period of the revolution and even married to Trotsky's secretary, Evgenia Shvelina.

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