In this analysis of Arthur Ransome’s novels, Julian Lovelock establishes them as belonging to a tradition of island literature from Shakespeare to Stevenson, while cementing Ransome’s significance in the history of literature as the man who changed the direction of children’s books by introducing the adventure novel.
Readers learn how Ransome’s novels relate to his own life while also reflecting the trends in thirties literature like the detective novel and the thriller.
Mr Lovelock challenges common perceptions that Ransome’s works uphold outdated, colonial ideology. His work makes it clear that the Bolshevik sympathising Ransome was no imperialist and that the empirical games the Walker children play in his books reflected a time when schools celebrated Empire Day and allowed children to dress up as island ‘savages’ with black faces. (We can be glad that age is past!)
We learn how Ransome uses satire and parody to express his own distance from the old world (eg when writing about the Lady Bracknell-like Great Aunt Maria) while his characters Nancy, Titty and Missee Lee smash female stereotyping.
The work instead gives testament to how Ransome was in touch with his country’s past and his own times. It highlights the recurring themes of continuity and renewal which reflect Ransome’s own views set against the threat of invasion by an insensitive, urban community and tourist industry of which these latter serve as a metaphor for the darkening prospect of approaching war and loss of childhood innocence.
This book also offers a fascinating insight into Ransome the writer.
Most important however, is the recognition that comedy and optimism are central to Ransome’s work, tempered with the triumph of humanity.
Even Great Aunt Maria holds onto her sense of dignity.
Today’s Internet-savvy reader is left in no doubt that Ransome is a shining light for our time.