By: Roger Wardale
Arthur Ransome's delightful adventure series of children's books, "Swallows and Amazons", has captured the imagination of children and adults alike ever since they were first published in the 1930s. Even today, eighty years after the very first book was published, the series remains as popular and enduring as ever. Ransome once described writing books for children as like reliving the best part of childhood, but this was far from the whole truth. His genius as a storyteller stemmed from an almost infinite capacity for painstaking perfectionism. Once Ransome had completed the first draft, he would then settle down to write a complete revision and the most difficult chapters were written over and over again. Unhappy with the illustrations produced for the first book, Ransome persuaded the publishers to go to print with none at all, save for the cover image and by book three, he'd taken the decision to do all his own illustrations. Using primary written sources, including letters, diary entries and Ransome's own working notes, Roger Wardale expertly pieces together the fascinating story of how the twelve "Swallows & Amazons" books came to be written against the odds. Wardale observes how the stories evolved from the point of view of all those who were closely involved - Ransome's publisher, his mother, his wife, his friends and fans - as well as Ransome himself. It is an amazing story of a dedicated writer battling against the problems of ill health, a critical and argumentative wife, his own perceived shortcoming and an expectant publisher. Wardale's account provides a new fresh look at the enduring "Swallows and Amazons" series and how and why they came into being - a must-read for any Ransome fan.
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