Spare clean language, beautiful layered tale
This is a beautifully written novel, combining various motifs – myth and fairy story, the search for true love, the Russian Revolution, the childrens’ writer Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons) and espionage.
As each and every one of these motifs are appealing or fascinating to me, I didn’t see how this book could fail me. And it didn’t!
The story of how the children’s writer Arthur Ransome had a life as a spy, initially going to Russia to research folk-lore and fairy, and becoming a sympathiser of the Bolshevik cause was something I had no idea about – Sedgwick’s marriage of subject matter is pretty perfect!
The book is marketed at I guess an early teens reader with an interest in a few of the above motifs, But his writing is too good to let his teen audience have him all to themselves; like Ransome himself, and more modern ‘childrens’ writers’ like Alan Garner, Philip Pullman etc there’s great pleasure for us ‘well grown up readers too’.
In fact I sometimes prefer really good ‘childrens’ writers’ – some ‘good’ adult writers can be too self-consciously turning a fine phrase, or trying to impress their peers; intelligent writing for children is often without artificial ‘cleverness’