Swallows and Amazons is a wonderful, well-loved children’s classic following the four Walker children during their family summer holiday to the Lake District in 1929. John, Susan, Titty and Roger are given permission by their mother and a telegram from their father to use the farm’s boat, Swallow, to sail out to the island across the lake and set up camp for the summer. While on the island they find themselves at war with the Amazons – sisters Nancy and Peggy – and also wrapped up in the mystery of the houseboat pirate, Captain Flint. We follow the children’s adventures and struggles, and themes of freedom, imagination and independence make this story both exciting and perceptive.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and did not want to put it down. It is filled with so much imagination; to the children everything is a life or death situation, everyone is either a member of the crew or a native or a pirate, and every moment is an opportunity to discover a new place or capture some treasure. Reading about all the adventures and games the children invented was incredibly fun, and often had me smiling as I read. My edition also included illustrations by the author, and drawn maps of the lake and the surrounding area and of the children’s island, which made the reading experience even better.
I loved all of the characters in the book, and enjoyed witnessing the interactions between the children. I found their conversations to be endearing and believable, and often quite funny. I especially loved the character of the children’s mother; she would always join in with the children’s adventures and play her role of native (or whatever the current situation required) perfectly, but her care and concern could be seen subtly.
One of my favourite aspects of the novel was its setting. As the author spent many of his childhood holidays on a farm in south Coniston, the location of the island is highly inspired by the Lake District, and this being where I was brought up, this novel is quite special to me. The descriptions of the lakes and the hills were perfect, and whilst reading the book gave me a nostalgic and and almost wistful feel.
As well as being an exciting, adventurous children’s book, it was also cleverly practical; throughout there was information about how to camp well, and detailed sailing techniques. Overall this is a charming story, made up of a perfect blend of imagination and real life. Ransome is a brilliant storyteller.