20 Novelists who mention Swallows and Amazons or other Arthur Ransome books in their work

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 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.’

Coniston Water in the rain

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.’

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.

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 .

The Slate Quay on Coniston Water ~ photo: Sophie Neville

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 a short story featuring Swallows and Amazons, which Tessa Jordan says, ‘contains the most remarkable depiction of the spell cast by Swallows and Amazons.’

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.

Jon Tucker has written a series five Those Kids books set in Tasmania and New Zealand that bring Ransome into the 21st Century.

Inspired by Ransome, Duncan Hall brought out the Brambleholme series of books for children aged 8-80 set in the Yorkshire Dales.

Windermere, Cumbria

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 Jones and Frances Wheen at Pin Mill with Sophie Neville

Julia reminds me that Marcus Sedgwick has written 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.

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

13 thoughts on “20 Novelists who mention Swallows and Amazons or other Arthur Ransome books in their work”

  1. 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.

  2. 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

    1. 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: