Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Blue Remembered Hills by Rosemary Sutcliff

published 1983









I soon had a part-time nannie, who came in by the half-day. Her name was Ivy, and she had a squint and a black Spanish hat with a red rose under the brim… I thought it was the most beautiful hat I had ever seen.

Another result of my not being ill was that my mother now had much more social life. When she came to say goodnight to me in all her glory before going out to dinner, shew would be wearing a dress, short-skirted and with its waist round her hips, of pink and gold brocade; or one which I liked even better – almost as much as Ive’s hat – which was black, held up by a narrow black ribbon over one shoulder and a string of coral beads over the other, and flashing a broad pleat lined with coral pink in the skirt, that appeared and disappeared as she moved. I could draw that dress now.





observations: When I featured a Rosemary Sutcliff book recently, and said how much I had loved her stories when I was young, a reader told me I should get hold of her autobiography. Ever obedient to anyone who comes commenting on the blog, I did so. It’s a memoir of her life from birth in 1920 to the publication of her first books in 1950. At first it seems like a routine enough story: the middle class milieu, a father in the merchant navy, playing and not playing with local children, our dogs were better than anyone else’s. Almost casually she reveals a disability – juvenile arthritis, or Still’s Disease, which meant she had to undergo endless operations and rounds of treatment as a young child, was frequently in pain, and was unable to walk properly. But she carries on with the descriptions of the English countryside, the stories from school, the interest in art, relations with her parents – it becomes more and more compelling.


She has no self-pity, and simply wants to explain exactly what her difficulty was, and carries on describing her normal life as she lived it – sheltered, too close to her mother – and the opportunity she nearly had to find love and marriage. The book is nothing like her wonderful historical novels, but the writing is of the same extraordinarily high standard – the descriptions of her houses and the countryside are particularly good. This is a quiet, low-key book, but highly-recommended and well worth reading. 

The picture is of an opera singer, Lucrezia Bori, and comes from the Dovima is Devine photostream.

12 comments:

  1. What a wonderful photo for the excerpt. I thought it must have been the author or her mother in the photo to so closely fit the description. It sounds like the rest of her writing is equally descriptive.

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    1. Thank you Bill, that's lovely to hear! and it really was an excellent book.

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  2. A lovely name for a book and it does sound interesting. Another author I am not familiar with at all, but I suppose that makes sense. I was interested in a lot of books in my youth, but I don't remember reading historical fiction. And only whatever I found in the library.

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    1. I had a real thing for historical fiction when I was young - I'm sure I learnt far more from books than from lessons at school - and I doubt I would have read this book if it weren't for loving her fiction so much.

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    2. Moira - I always like it so much when an autobiography isn't self-serving. I like them much better if they're matter-of-fact. I can see why this appealed to you too, or perhaps it's just that history appeals to me. Oh, and I just love that dress! So graceful and so '20s.

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    3. Yes Margot, I know exactly what you mean. And what struck me was that in a novel, a first person narrator would have made much more of the illness, would be unlikely to be so straightforward. As you can tell, the book impressed me very much.

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  3. Stopping by from Books You Loved. This is a new author for me and one I think I would enjoy. Glad I stopped over! I love the title of this book too.

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    1. Yes,it's a great book, and as you say, great title too. Carole's Books you Loved is a great feature isn't it? - introduces us all to all kinds of new joys.

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  4. Great post. You always have such interesting reviews with just the right added touch.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved November Edition. I am in the list as #28. My book entry is below.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, always nice to see you, and you are very kind.

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  5. Hmmm......can you guess? Will I surprise you......err, no, not for me thanks. I will say I learned something though, was previously unaware of Still's Disease.

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    1. Well I'd have been surprised if you'd said anything else! But at least your medical knowledge has been increased....

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