Tuesday, November 21, 2017

53. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

This was a huge childhood favourite of mine but I couldn't actually remember much about its content or even if I read it myself or if my dad had read it to me.  It's the story of a family on vacation in the lake country somewhere in England.  There are two brothers and two sisters (and a new baby sister who doesn't get to go on the adventures yet), their mum and nurse. The father is somewhere around the world on a ship.

The story is basically of their summer sailing on the lake, in particular a week they spend camping on an island in the lake and the adventures they generate from it.  Really not much happens.  It's really about them working their sail boat, setting up camp, pretending to be pirates, spying on the man on the lone houseboat, meeting some rival pirates their age, navigating the waters and going fishing.  Somehow it is all very absorbing and fantastic.  There is a small subplot of a robbery of the houseboat, but it's not really central to the story. 

I wonder if this book would appeal to children of today.  Kids gets such intense dosages of fantasy both visually and content wise with all the tv shows and books out there, that Swallows and Amazons may just seem to pedestrian.  I think it is an important book to read so I hope that they would still enjoy it.  It teaches so much about independence. The oldest boy is maybe 12 I think.  They sail by themselves and stay camping for several nights.  They do check in back at home to get supplies, but I just can't imagine this kind of independence today.  We stayed at Georgian Bay with my aunt a couple of summers ago and we took some of the kids out in her canoe and it was like the biggest deal. The parents don't let their kids out of their sight.  Really sad.

Another sadder thing was that this book was written in 1929 and many of the plucky kids in this story would probably have been off to use their skills and independence in World War II not so far down the road.

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