Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

This was recommended (and graciously lent) to me by a friend who read my write up of The Saturdays. I have to admit it has taken me a very long time to read it, as I basically just read a little each night in bed. As children’s books go–not a fast read. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I was fascinated by this world of children who are allowed to have a magical summer vacation living on an island by themselves. Fascinated that their mother allowed four children, one of whom was not a competent swimmer, to sail away and live on an island (that was not far from her, but still), and not know what they did all day, and really only be concerned that they get fresh milk every morning from the farm across the bay. These children (Susan, John, Roger, and -hilarious to a modern person- Titty) do have the most wonderful adventures and have the best imaginations of any child I’ve ever heard of. I loved it that they all still took the time to make tea and cook lovely meals for themselves. Can you imagine a ten year old today, by herself on an island, cooking up freshly caught fish for everyone? No, you cannot. Because today’s children probably wouldn’t even be allowed to build a fire on their own. I did find the endless sailing descriptions rather tedious, as well as some of the other drawn out bits. Taken a little bit each day, though, with license to skim the boring sailing bits (these children were very very capable sailors), a nice old fashioned British children’s story.

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4 thoughts on “Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

  1. I can definitely see how parts of this book were really dull. It had been recommended to me by a ton of people and I remember while reading it thinking, “What’s the big deal?” But then the minute I would put it down, I’d be thinking, “I wonder what’s going to happen next” and “I just don’t want the book to end!”

  2. Oh, and as for the whole “Can you imagine someone letting their kids do this?” thing — that’s what I remember liking best from the YA books I read as a kid. The I’d-never-get-to-do-this-in-real-life stuff, you know?

  3. And then you’d think, “And why shouldn’t I do this? These kids had a perfectly marvelous time!” I liked their father’s attitude-if they’re not duffers they won’t drown!

  4. Hello … I think this is something of a classic of children’s literature. Ransome was an exceptional writer and among us aging British baby boomers who were brought up with him, he enjoys a mythic status. He was also an extraordinary man who covered the Russian revolution as a radical journalist and married Trotsky’s secretary. His children’s stories include a couple of duffs, perhaps, but Swallows and Amazons is a must. One has to admire his view that children must be allowed to do dangerous things – not an attitude that prevails today.

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