Blue Remembered Hills Essay - Critical Context

Rosemary Sutcliff

Critical Context

No other twentieth century author wrote of British history with the comprehensive vision of Sutcliff, yet she remained essentially a private figure. This book presents her admirers a glimpse of the writer. For all its modesty and its stripped-down prose style, the book also offers some insights into what Sutcliff admires and why. The quiet heroism of Marcus in The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), her first major success, begins not when he is a confident young centurion but when, wounded and only partly rehabilitated, he continues to serve both Rome and his adopted country. Drem, the crippled hero of Warrior Scarlet (1958), also takes on a new meaning, as do count-less other Sutcliff heroes who learn through suffering. Even the love for animals that is a constant theme in her historical novels also seems more understandable in the light of Sutcliff’s autobiography.

This book celebrates the triumph of a determined individual over great odds. Life-threatening disease and its crippling effects have great interest for young adult readers; Blue Remembered Hills describes these threats far better than most problem novels do, yet without the easy sentimentality and quick answers that often accompany them in fiction.