Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

This was a series that I never read as a child, although my sister actually owned the books. Why did I never venture into this world, I’m not quite sure. I did love lots of books written by British authors, like Noel Streatfeild and Enid Blyton.

This was a series that I never read as a child, although my sister actually owned the books. Why did I never venture into this world, I’m not quite sure. I did love lots of books written by British authors, like Noel Streatfeild and Enid Blyton.

Well I’m making up for it now. And just nicely, this fits into the Back to the Classics challenge for “a children’s classic”.

And I must say, that Vintage Classics cover is rather a striking one, isn’t it?

When I started reading this, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it. It took a while to get into it but when I did, it was a fun read.

In case you’ve not heard of this series before. Here’s a little about it. It was published in 1930. And the Walker children (also known as Captain John, Mate Susan, Able-Seaman Titty, and Ship’s Boy Roger) are given permission to sail their boat Swallow and stay on Wild Cat Island. They meet the Blackett sisters, who are also a sailing family. They’re the “Amazon” part as they’re the “pirates” and their boat is named Amazon. Luckily they become fast friends.

Camping on deserted island, sailing, cooking their own meals, sailing to the nearby farm to get fresh milk. What a life!

It was interesting to be reading a book about these young children allowed to go about doing all this on their own. I mean, sure their home wasn’t too far away. But still, they were pretty much left to figure things out for themselves. Like cooking meals and fetching fresh milk.

There’s something rather charming about this more innocent way of life. When children are able to roam independently. I think especially in contrast to this past year, where we have been largely confined to our home and neighbourhood. Would I even let my kids walk to the nearby park (about 15 minutes walk) by themselves? Um, probably not.

While it was a pleasant read, I honestly didn’t even consider borrowing the second book in the series. I don’t think I ever felt so absorbed in any of the characters that I longed to remain in their realm. Maybe because I’m reading this book decades too late? Would I have loved it more as a kid?

6 Comments

  1. This is one that I read as an adult, too, and I just didn’t love it as much as some do, either. (I tried to read it many times as a kid and was bored by all the boat stuff. LOL) It’s hard to foster that kind of independence in kids now, because there’s always someone around who raises an eyebrow in your direction, but I do think it helps prepare kids to fend for themselves later too. (Even if they’re never in quite those S&A situations. heheh)

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  2. On one level I was surprised by the end of the review, of you not wanting to read any more.
    On another I was not at all surprised as these were not my favourite books as a child. For me, the kids were too independent and it felt very far removed from reality to the point of surrealism. Further into the series they go sailing and meet pirates and the only way I could make sense of this was by thinking “Oh they must just be on the local pond and imagining all the adventures they are having”, a la Muppet Babies-stylee. So where I loved Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, the actions of their child characters were all still rooted in worlds, even fantasy worlds, where children had limits and a lot of the tension and fun was in how they pushed against them.

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    1. (Proper pirates that aren’t the other family, and I seem to remember they gave them a really hot curry that they had trouble eating, Or maybe I am just making all this up. In any case I just couldn’t work out how any child could manage all the things that they could)

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      1. I think this first book is maybe ok in that they’re staying on an island that’s not too far from home. But I can’t imagine if they do go further afield and do other bigger things, which I guess they must do as there are so many other books in the series.
        But yes, not really a book for me. Not then, not now either.

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