Many esteemed authors have written biographies of Author Ransome and the places that inspired him. Here, I list novelists who acknowledge Ransome as an inspiration or have references to his books within their own work. It is a list that will no doubt grow. Please add copiously to the comments below.
Sir William Golding, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, mentions Swallows and Amazons in Lord of the Flies.
Debbie Welch points out that Monica Edwards has her character Andrea reading We didn’t mean to go to sea in Punchbowl Midnight. ‘She slams it down when Peter has let Midnight (the calf) out.’ TARS member Elizabeth Williams said that Pigeon Post is being read in Summer of the Great Secret. “Monica Edwards was a great Ransome fan. She wrote a letter to him after the publication of Great Northern? There isn’t a record of a reply.”
Nevil Shute mentions Swallows and Amazons in No Highway. Eddie Castellan of the Arthur Ransome Group on Facebook writes: ‘Ronnie Clarke is spotted reading Coot Club as a bedtime story in the closing pages of The Rainbow and the Rose.’
Katie Fforde, president of the Romantic Novelists Association, mentions Arthur Ransome in her novel A Vintage Wedding. Martin Allott spotted this, explaining, ‘It’s a gentle romance about the love lives of three female friends who set up a wedding planning business… Lindy mentions some favourite books, one of which is Old Peter’s Russian Tales.’
Kathryn Clare Brissenden wrote: ‘In Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher, Judith gets given the latest Arthur Ransome for Christmas. Winter Holiday, I think it was.’
Liz Taylorson has recently brought out a romance entitled Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm that not only features the book Swallows and Amazons but makes quite a thing of Titty’s name. You can find the extract here.
Kit Pearson wrote the Guests of War trilogy (The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon and The Lights Go On Again). Adam Quinan explained that they are about a British sister and brother evacuated to Canada during the early days of the Second World War. ‘The older sister loved Ransome’s books and compares his stories to Ontario lakeside cottage life.’
In Red Letter Holiday by Virginia Pye the mother of the family is reading Swallows and Amazons aloud.
Teacher, Teacher!, by Jack Sheffield, has one of his star pupils reading Swallows and Amazons.
Magnus Smith says that How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger and Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr mention Ransome’s books.
In The Boyhood of Grace Jones by Jane Langton, an American book from 1972, the main character is obsessed by the books, and fantasizes about being as good a sailor as John Walker.
Danny Brocklehurst mentions Swallows and Amazons very briefly in Stone.
Catherine Lamont from Australia said, “Just read a 2020 book mentioning ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (someone spotted in a bookshelf belonging to one of the main characters): The Enigma Game, by Elizabeth Wein.” Elizabeth Wein wrote in to say, “Not just in The Enigma Game – I namedropped Swallows & Amazons in my novel Code Name Verity, too! It was given to me by my grandmother’s best friend when I was seven and was one of my favorites. My own children, who never actually read it, were huge fans of the film”.
Libby Purves, now President of The Arthur Ransome Society, mentions Swallows and Amazons in her novel Regatta. I need reminding if she mentions Ransome in her other books.
Victor Watson references Swallows and Amazons in his Paradise Barn quartet. I think one of the kids wants to borrow it from the library.
The Swallows and Amazon series gets mentioned An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls, Coming Home by Rosamun Pilcher and Impossible! by Michelle Magorian. Does she also mention We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea in Goodnight Mr Tom?
Clare Havens refers to Swallows and Amazons in The Bellamy Bird, a novel which she asked Virginia McKenna to narrate when it came out as an audiobook.
Tessa Hadley wrote about the Mate Susan being dull, tame and sensible in her short story entitled Bad Dreams. Tessa Jordan says that it, ‘contains the most remarkable depiction of the spell cast by Swallows and Amazons.’ It was reviewed in the Guardian here.
Other authors, playwrights and illustrators have expressed their love for the Swallows and Amazon series:
Garth Nix who wrote The Left-Handed Book Sellers of London specifically calls out ‘Swallows and Amazons’ as an inspiration at the end of his book.
Philip Pullman chose We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea as one of his 40 favourite children’s books in a Waterstones promotion and borrows Ransome’s phrase ‘signaling to Mars’ from Winter Holiday in La Belle Sauvage.
Jeanne Birdsall‘s Penderwicks books are highly recommended for young Ransome fans. Alan Kennedy has also written in what has become a Ransome genre.
Katherine Hull and Pamela Whitlock were young fans of Arthur Ransome who helped and encouraged them to publish their novel The Far-Distant Oxus.
BJ Pitman references Swallows and Amazons in Airmid and Satori in the Banduri series.
Arthur Ransome books are mentioned by in Elinor Brent-Dyer in Changes for the Chalet School
Many authors have been inspired by Ransome:
Duncan Hall brought out the Brambleholme series of books for children aged 8-80 set in the Yorkshire Dales.
Jon Tucker has written a series five Those Kids books set in Tasmania and New Zealand that effectively bring Ransome into the 21st Century.
Julia Jones, whose Strong Winds series begins around the Shotley Peninsular where the Ransomes once lived, is a great fan of the Swallows and Amazons series. She has been sailing Arthur Ransome’s yacht Peter Duck since she was a little girl and mentions his books in her novels. She writes on behalf of other authors who quote Swallows and Amazons: ‘All of us are honest about our inspiration: we acknowledge Arthur Ransome in our credits / we join The Arthur Ransome Society / introduce a Swallows and Amazons-reading child into our stories and in my case, at least, get our lead characters thinking desperately ‘what would the Swallows do next?” You can read more in her article about authors who have been inspired by Ransome’s writing entitled X Marks the Legacy.
Julia reminds me that Marcus Sedgwick wrote a whole novel based on Arthur Ransome’s adventures in Russia where he met Evgenia, the woman who was to become his second wife, entitled Blood Red, Snow White. I have a copy.
The science fiction author Charles Stross also features Ransome in Russia during the Civil War in one of The Laundry Files novels: The Apocalypse Codex.
Please leave any other connections who might have spotted in the comments below.
13 thoughts on “Novelists who mention Swallows and Amazons or other Arthur Ransome books in their work”
Sophie no surprise everyone loves Swallows and Amazon’s x
Get Outlook for Androidhttps://aka.ms/AAb9ysg ________________________________
Ah, you must comment on some the reviews left on the Amazon site, but then a lot of people enjoy being grumpy.
I echo the previous commentator, and also Melanie Philips; I read ‘Swallows and Amazons’ as a boy at Primary School over 60 years ago and it still remains one of my favourite books.
Please let me know if I can add to this list.
Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage includes an unmistakable homage to WH: “Signalling to Mars.”
Thanks for writing in. I’ve added your observation. Please let me know if there is anything I haven’t got quite right.
‘Satori’ first book in Banduri series references ‘aged parents’ from Coot Club
Thanks for writing in. The Aged Parent is in turn a reference from Dickens. Please remind me which novel.
I have Great Expectations
Is it this novel by Don Winslow? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Satori-Don-Winslow-ebook/dp/B004PGM8ZA/
Dear Sophie, Thanks for compiling this interesting list, some of which I knew about, but by no means all. Back in 2006, I wrote an article for Mixed Moss entitled ‘Serendipitous reading’, listing some of the books I’d been reading which had references to Ransome. The authors and titles I mentioned were: Robert Douglas – Night song of the last tram: a Glasgow childhood. 2005 (plays at S&A on a boating pond, as does Paul Johnson, below)Mairi Hedderwick – Sea change: the summer voyage from East to West Scotland of the Anassa. 2001Paul Johnson – The vanished landscape: a 1930s childhood in the Potteries. 2004Michael Pearson – Iron roads to the Broads and Fens. 2005 (refers to the Ds and Thorpe station in Norwich)Francis Spufford – The child that books built. 2002 Since then I also read, and treasure, Penelope Lively’s Oleander Jacaranda. 1994and Libby Purves wrote the novel Regatta, 1999 (both in TARS Library, as is Robert Douglas) All worth a read in their own right, but I especially love Robert Douglas, as a Glaswegian myself! All the best,Winifred
That is an amazing list, Winifred. Thanks so much for taking the time to add it.
In this blog post I have tried to concentrate novels and novelists. I list playwrights next.
Are most of the books you list memoirs?
I do have ‘Regatta’ but not any others.
I have more authors listed here in this post, which I thought might be useful to anyone looking for speakers for TARS or contributors to publications: https://sophieneville.net/2022/07/29/well-known-people-who-love-swallows-and-amazons/