Author: Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92)
Illustrator: Richard Kennedy
Publication: Oxford University Press, hardcover, 1959 (originally published 1953)
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction Description: It had never seemed of much importance during their boyhood that Simon Carey was for Parliament and his friend Amias Hannaford a Royalist. But when the Civil War between the parties broke out, and two years later they were old enough to take part in it, they found themselves on different sides. This story tells of the last stages of the English Civil War waged in the west country, and the account of the part played by Simon in the fighting. Several times in the course of it he encounters Amias, and these meetings leave him torn by conflicting loyalties. Finally, the day comes when he is forced to put the strength of his friendship to the test, weighing it against his loyalty to the Parliamentarian cause.
Quote from Noel Streatfield: Here is an author who writes with great distinction . . . Simon is a book that I recommend with all my heart.”
My Impressions: Rosemary Sutcliff is one of my mother’s favorite authors so when I saw this in Gill Bilski’s catalog last spring and did not recognize it as having been published in the US, I decided to buy it for her birthday. Thanks to the pandemic it arrived in time for Christmas instead! Coincidentally, December was the centenary of Sutcliff’s birth so many admirers were expressing their admiration for her books shortly after I finished it.
I am a big fan of historical fiction set during the English Civil War and this did not disappoint. Simon is sober and intense, as befits his Parliamentary allegiance, while Amias is an idealistic and dashing Cavalier. The reader, knowing the fatalities of war and that Sutcliff is not sentimental, fears for their safety whenever they encounter each other and even when they don’t, as Sutcliff also provides vivid and unnerving battle scenes. I did wish for some strong female characters. Simon’s sister Mouse (who should insist people use her name, Marjory) has potential but is a minor character, as is Susanna, Simon’s Exeter landlady’s downtrodden daughter.
All the fandom for Sanditon, deprived of its second season by short-sighted executives who apparently made their decision before the series aired in the US, has reminded me of my favorite Masterpiece Theatre, By the Sword Divided, set during the English Civil War about sisters who find themselves on different sides (I love the theme music at the beginning!). I may have mentioned that the last episode was recorded and accidentally taped over, so I don't know how the second season ended! Much anguish and recrimination took place.Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader.
Source: Family copy