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Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome: John C Adams Reviews

Book name: Swallows and Amazons

Author: Arthur Ransome

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Format: Print, ebook, audiobook

Genre: Vintage children’s fiction

Publication Date: 1930

Star Rating: 5/5

Children’s author Arthur Ransome is best known for his ‘Swallows and Amazons’ book series, although he also wrote about history, politics and the literary life of London.

The series begins with Swallows and Amazons, and it is based on Arthur Ransome’s childhood holidays to the Lake District in northern England and other holidays on the Norfolk Broads.

Roger is no longer the youngest in the family, courtesy of the birth of his sister Vicky, and the four oldest Walker children are now considered old enough to be allowed to go camping alone.

They are all wild about sailing, and have the use of a boat called the Swallow, so they decide to camp on an island in the middle of the lake.

Roger is ship’s boy, Titty is able seaman, Susan is mate and John, the eldest, is captain of the Swallow.

The camping is quite comfortable courtesy of some canvas tents their mother has made and plenty of cooking equipment.

A farm across the water supplies milk and eggs daily, and a steady supply of cake, fruit and tinned beef from Mrs Walker mean that starvation is never likely.

Their experience isn’t one of hardship by any means, and the children love cooking on the campfire, tucking down in their tents of haybale mattresses and fishing for perch in the lake.

Just when the practicalities of camping might tire a little, the action pivots with the arrival of Nancy and Peggy Blackett sailing the Amazon.

The Walkers know that others have landed on their island previously because when they arrive they find a tidy pile of firewood and a ring of stones with burned ground inside that has been used for a campfire.

The Blacketts claim the island as their own, and the two sides decide to have a mini war between them to decide who will be overall captain of their group and which boat will be flagship.

This challenge takes the form of attempting to board and steal each other’s boats.

Courtesy of some good luck and initiative, the matter is settled late into the night. However, almost immediately a much more serious consideration arises: the Blacketts’ uncle’s houseboat is burgled.

Who has committed the crime, and where have they hidden his possessions?

Swallows and Amazons is set in the summer of 1929. It has become a byword for an active, healthy, out-of-doors childhood with minimum recourse to indoors amusements and comforts.

It is difficult to imagine a childhood without TV and almost devoid of radio. The Walkers and the Blacketts are endlessly imaginative in pretending to be pirates, and Swallows and Amazons absolutely captures the essence of childhood.

I love the story. There is plenty of action and a bewildering amount of detail about sailing itself. The six children are immensely likeable characters, and the confidence of the empowered young women combined with the depth of Roger’s character as the youngest helps to explain its continuing appeal.

Thank you for reading my review.

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