If it were not for a forthcoming Open University course on children’s literature, I would probably not read “Swallows and Amazons”. I have glanced it once or twice, out of curiosity: after all, I do love children’s books. But I think it is important to have an interest in sailing to really appreciate the book and the series which came after it.
The story so far: the Walkerchildren; John, Susan, Titty and Roger are on holiday in the Lake District. Being as their father is a sailor, in the Royal Navy and their mother grew up in SydneyHarbourin Australia, they are a boat-mad family. After consultation with their father by post, as he is away in the ChinaSeas, the children are allowed to take their boat Swallow and camp on an island in the lake. Their mother has made their tents and they sail across the lake every morning to buy milk and other essentials from a farm. As if it were not enough of an adventure on it’s own, they think of themselves as the crew of a sailing ship, with the people on the shore being the Natives.
The camp was invaded by pirates: two girls named Nancyand Peggy, who sail a little boat called Amazon. The girls have declared war on their unsympathetic uncle, who really only wants a little space and quiet in which to write a book. After an encounter with the grumpy uncle, henceforth known as Captain Flint, a retired pirate, the Walker children have also declared war on the poor man. They have signed an agreement to form a combined war party, but to be free to attack each other whenever they can. I’ve got as far as the Walkers sailing off, leaving Titty behind as a lookout, while they attempt to capture the Amazon. All the while, knowing that the Amazon pirates are probably embarking on a mission to capture Swallow.
It’s all good fun and I am enjoying the book. However, there are a lot of nautical terms and it seems to be assumed that the reader is as mad about boats as the Walkers. The Arthur Ransome society started up a club to encourage his fans to go off on adventures of their own. I can understand the appeal of it all, but it is not for me.
This book is a welcome change from today’s “issue” books. In Swallows and Amazons, the only issue is over the mystery of why Captain Flint dislikes the children. Thank heavens for books written in 1930!