The plot thickens. Thickens like a sauce that you’ve been stirring patiently for half an hour, and you turn away from it for less than a minute. So far they’ve basically been pottering about, wittily sewing on buttons. Now there’s smoke, shaking of fists, and a mysterious disappearing pirate ship. You can hardly see for the foreshadowing. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter VIII: Red knitted caps, and no stockings
I’m interested in the boundaries these siblings set for each other. Titty doesn’t want John and Susan to know that she’s practicing being a cormorant, but she’s absolutely fine with telling them that she’s diving for pearls. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter VII: “You’re to swim as well as splash”
From Mae Thinks Everything goes so slowly when you’re camping. A few years ago there was a thing called the ‘slow food movement’ – it seems to have quietened down a bit now. While it was (like most food ‘movements’) pretty problematic in terms of guilt trips and unchecked privileged and exoticising other cultures, I definitely think there’s something to be said for going through daily subsistence-tasks mindfully, and that is a lot of the appeal of camping for me. In this chapter, they collect the milk, visit their mum briefly, and go for another sail for no particular reason. There’s … Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter VI: From an island of your own.
“…the mate and the able-seaman did some washing up… The captain and the boy took the telescope and found a high place… ‘Supposing Susan and Titty were here alone, while you and I had gone fishing… we should know something was the matter, and come back to help.’” I’m watching you, Ransome… Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter V: If not duffers won’t drown
From Mae Thinks One effect of the multiple layers of reality, the children’s investment in their fictional world, is that it makes these descriptions of eggs and oars and hand-sewn tents seem so realistic by comparison. When I first visited the lake district, at about the age of nine, I saw no reason at all why I shouldn’t be allowed to spend the week camping independently on an island, and I was most indignant to find that the lake was not, in fact, uninhabited and waiting expectantly for my exploration. The children arrive at their island for the first time … Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter IV: There were apples all round
If you have ever wondered why you like Arthur Ransome’s books so much, the answer might just be that he is a better writer than even you realised.
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The children in these books believe in their status as explorers in the same way that we believed in Santa Claus. On one level, they know that they are children telling each other stories; but at the same time, they make the stories as coherent and comprehensive as possible, so that they can live fully within them. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter III: As good a native as anyone could wish
So – as far as I can remember, this is about the most dismissive thing that is said about Roger in the whole series. All the children have their own distinct roles, but none are defined by them. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter II: Roger to get in the way
So here we sit, on the shores of an adventure…
And that opening image, of Roger tacking diligently up the field towards his mother, resisting the urge to run straight towards her and the message she holds because it would break the reality he has constructed. These children are doing Real Life, in a big way,.. Continue reading Swallows and Amazons Chapter I: Better drowned than duffers…