Saturday, December 15, 2018

52. Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome

This is the second book of the Swallows & Amazons series about little British children on holiday in the country in the period between the two world wars.  I was not so enthusiastic about the first one that I immediately wanted to read the next (it didn't quite grab me as it had a child, though I enjoyed it).  This was such a beautiful copy that I picked it up.

I am really glad I did, because this one did really grab me.  First, I needed something well written and real and honest after the pollution that was State of Fear.  Swallowdale was the perfect antidote.  Second, early on in this book, they crash the Swallow, their little sail boat and it has to go in for repairs.  This means that the bulk of the adventure and exploration takes place on land.  I do like the sailing stuff but the technical language loses me and I get disconnected.  Here, they are following the little river up to a cool, hidden valley and exploring outwards on the moors.  There is a really great map that goes with this one as well.  Finally, we have a real antagonist here, in the form of the Amazon's Great Aunt, who is staying with them and bringing with her a reign of terror of visits and outings in proper dresses and reading poetry and so on.  Nancy and Peggy and even their Uncle Jim have to sneak and plot in order to even get out of the house for some adventure.

With Swallows & Amazons, the first book, I theoretically enjoyed it.  Swallowdale satisfied my love of adventure and exploration in fiction so well that I am back on board and looking forward to finding the third book.  I am also going full-on prosletyzing and will be sending these books to the various children in my life that are the correct age.  It demonstrates to me how powerful the themes of exploration and adventure can be on their own. They don't need tension or character development or arcs or any of that American university creative writing dogma to be entertaining.  Even when you can see the map and know some of the events that are coming, Ransome is so good at capturing the feeling of climbing up over a ridge to see what is on the other side that you still feel excited.

1 comment:

Kate M. said...

I read most of these in my early teens. The one that I liked best, because it was more vividly told and less sort of British-kid-fantasy-life than the others, was "We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea."