Wednesday, 10 April 2013


So I've been re-reading rosemary Sutcliffe's 'The Eagle of the Ninth' again.  And as usual, reading results in fanart...

No I'm not going to tell you where in the book this occurs or what's going on - you have to go read it for yourself.  Also I just really wanted to draw some mountains!  And guys.  Guys on mountains...

Part of what I enjoy about this book is simply the writing style.  I'm appreciating books that don't outline every single thing a character is thinking.  Or worse, a character with an almost preternatural sense of what other characters are thinking.  It's a bad habit I see a lot of modern authors falling into, but I prefer it when I'm left to work it out for myself.  How much about someone's underlying emotions can you really tell from their face anyway?  Maybe a basic mood, but how and why they feel that way is usually a mystery until they tell you.  Most of our time is spent acting and reacting.  This is how we really get to know people and Sutcliffe manages this extremely well.  Her writing is sparse and subtle but very visual, for lack of a better term, and it makes for an intelligent and engaging read.

The other thing that always interests me is the character of Esca.  Marcus, the Roman ex-soldier with a heart of gold and something to prove, is the main character but I find Esca's story more compelling.  A native Britain, his tribe is defeated by the Roman invaders and he winds up, eventually, as Marcus' slave.  Despite his circumstances he consistently proves his worth on his own terms.  If Marcus' goal is to restore the honourable reputation of his family name, Esca's form of honour is sticking to his principles in the face of whatever life throws at him, and trying to live rightly despite difficult circumstances.  He regularly has to negotiate the tension between his loyalties as both a Roman slave and a British warrior.

The idea of living honourably isn't something we seem to see much of in our culture at the moment.  It has been replaced with the concept of living as your emotions dictate, which seems to me to be very unsound.  Honour is a hard concept to grasp exactly, but it's the idea of living in a way that proves you worthy.  To me it's not Marcus, with his quests and plans and ambitions, but Esca that personifies this idea.  Someone in his position would be expected to either give up and accept their lot in life, or try to defy his captors and sabotage them, but he does neither.  He acknowledges that his situation is horrifically unjust and that he hates it, but he resolves to live in such a way that he can be proud of himself despite this.  In the end it pays off for him... but I'm not spoiling how.

No comments:

Post a Comment