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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 12:09 pm 
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Elvendork
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I'm a big fan of Sutcliff, in particular her wonderful Roman Britain trilogy, and recently finished her great Arthurian classic Sword at Sunset. The book acts as a chronological bridge between The Lantern Bearers and Dawn Wind, but is a much more adult work, and far darker. Sex (quite explicit for the time, she wrote it in 1963), adultery, violence (including non-graphic sexual violence) ... all this from a woman who suffered from Still's disease and was disabled all her life. What an incredible writer she was!

Told in the first person, this is about Artos the Bear, the great Romano-British captain trying to keep Sub-Roman Britain from being swamped by the Saxons. Some of the principal characters from the legendarium feature: Bedwyr is the Lancelot figure, Guenhumara is Guinevere, Ygerna is the vengeful half-sister and the creepily compelling Medraut is Artos's nemesis. No Merlin, no magic, but no less compelling and magical for that.

I love the Arthur myth stripped back to its bare essentials like this. :) I couldn't put it down. Sutcliff writes amazing battle scenes (she did meticulous research with various historian friends), and the climactic scene when Artos' men crown him Caesar on White Horse Hill at Uffington (a beautiful, ancient place which I've been to myself) is very powerful:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/white-horse-hill/

But Artos knows that the sense of magic and destiny is illusory and that it's lonely 'above the snow-line', i.e. being Britain's saviour is a pretty isolating role. The ending, in which you see the seeds which would flower into the Avalon idea, is beautiful and very moving.

As ever, there are some great animal characters: hounds and horses feature a lot in Sutcliff's work - endearing, but never sentimentally done either.

She was both a great storyteller and a great stylist (qualities I prize in Tolkien, of course). Her writing style is both lyrical and grounded.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:02 pm 
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Lán de Grás
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I was about to reserve this at my library after reading your post, and then I thought I should ask you which book to start with?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:27 pm 
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Sword at Sunset can be read as a stand-alone, IMO. :) It's a much longer novel than the others, and takes a somewhat different perspective.

But I highly recommend the Roman trilogy: The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers, which cover the same Roman family over a 300 year period in Britain. And I also really like Dawn Wind, set 100 years after the fall of Artos (Arthur).

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:55 pm 
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Rosemary Sutcliffe was great, another one I really enjoyed was Alfred Duggan, who wrote a load of stuff from a Catholic point of view, not that the Catholicism was intrusive, but it certainly informed the stories.

Maybe not everyone's taste, but they planted a seed within me of a curiosity for the ancient world which has been ever present since

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:57 pm 
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Lán de Grás
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*reserves Sword at Sunset at local library*

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2015 3:30 pm 
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This discussion just reminded me of a book that absolutely enthralled me as a child: Henry Treece's THE QUEEN'S BROOCH, about the clash of cultures during the Roman invasion of Britain. That book showed me how vivid historical fiction could be!

I'm going to go find myself a copy of SWORD AT SUNSET now! Thanks for the tip. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:11 pm 
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That sounds like it needs to be next on my list, Di.

You already know how much I've enjoyed the Roman trilogy.

Jude, I think you'd also like The Shining Company which features your beloved Edinburgh in the 8th century.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:16 pm 
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Lán de Grás
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*places Shining Company on reserve list at local library*

I finished and enjoyed Sword at Sunset, by the way.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 3:21 pm 
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Oh, very good! I need to read that one still.

Let me know what you think of The Shining Company. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 3:44 pm 
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I need to make a list - lately all I've been reading are books strongly steeped in Scottish, Arthurian legends. And I have been enjoying all of them because I know very little about that time & region. Connecting the bloodless revolution for William & Mary which I read in a Neal Stephenson book to the history referred in an Elizabeth Peters mystery to the historical fiction of Outlander kept me up till 2:00am last night.


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Please bear with my typos & grammar mistakes. Sent from my iPhone - Palantirs make mistakes too.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 7:35 pm 
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Lán de Grás
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"bloodless revolution for William and Mary" - what a misnomer.

It ushered in the most bloody and repressive period in Scottish history. But it's called bloodless because they managed to usurp the crown without killing anybody in the process.

All the killing came later...

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 11:12 pm 
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That's how the book I was reading described it - and that is what they meant that the usurping was bloodless. It did go on to chronicle the stuff that came later. The word "bloodless" is not *my* opinion or description.


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Please bear with my typos & grammar mistakes. Sent from my iPhone - Palantirs make mistakes too.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2015 11:19 pm 
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Lán de Grás
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Oh, I know - that's how it's generally referred to. It annoys me every time I hear the term.

Don't worry, I wasn't under the impression that it was your description :D

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2015 1:59 am 
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Boo! eNYPL does not have Sutcliffe. :(

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:45 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Are you spelling it without the "e"?

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:46 am 
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Thank you, Di, for recommending Sutcliff and particularly Sword at Sunset. I read it last week at the beach with absorption and pleasure. She's a wonderful writer, and her insight into character is penetrating. She also has the gift of writing so beautifully about natural settings that I feel as if I'm there, or as if they're memories of my own.

I will definitely be reading more of her work. Can you recommend what should come next? I really liked the adult qualities of Sword, and the length and detail. Dawn Wind? Or the Roman trilogy? I'm up for either, or anything else you suggest.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 4:52 am 
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I'm not Di, but I really did like The Shining Company. It didn't strike me as a kid's book, really. And the Roman trilogy is very good, too, maybe even more adult in some of its themes.

I still need to read Sword at Sunset.

(But, rereading Di's first post, how graphic is the non-graphic sexual violence? :neutral: How disturbing is it? How often does it occur? And how much does it figure into the plot? I can't read it if it's prevalent, a big part of the story, and disturbing.)

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:05 pm 
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Grumble mumble. Why doesn't eNYPL have Sutcliff?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 3:35 am 
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That really is ridiculous, Inanna.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 6:14 am 
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Well, Inanna, that's what you get for living in a cultural backwater like New York. <sniff>

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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