This is a superbly readable account of the life and times of Arthur Ransome, a 'must' as a Christmas present for anyone (especially perhaps grandparents) who dreamed themselves into that now long lost world of Swallows and Amazons They were the last generation to enjoy a childhood blessedly free from health and safety pottiness and social services breathing down the necks of parents and teachers which characterised those now-unimaginable interwar years. It was the era which began with the Baden Powell's Brownsea Island camp and Wind in The Willows destroyed for ever by the blitzes and buzz-bombs of WWII. Christina Hardyment's book is splendidly illustrated, delightfully designed and produced by Francis Lincoln Limited. It describes the extraordinary life of a journalist who saw ther Russian revolution but whose stories were to influence children's imagination more than anyone since James Barry's 'Peter Pan'. There are memorable photographs of the original children, of the Swallow, of Peel (Wildcat) Island, but also of 'The Nancy Blackett' - illustrations and sources of the non-Lake District stories like 'We Didn't Mean To Go to Sea' and his final story ('Great Northern' 1947)the origins of which 'were deliberately shrouded in mystery' and which makes it clear that 'the oldest children at least are all but grown up...no promise of adventures to come.' Hardyment however takes us gently on to his death, aged 83, in 1967 with a picture of Rusisland church where he is buried. 'The World of Arthur Ransome' is also incidentally a treasury of un pompous sociological information and observation of a particular stratum of middle-class life which typifyied an England (not a Britain)which has vanished for ever. In this way apart from anything else it is I suppose an invaluable historical document but one which, unlike most history books, can be read for the sheer pleasure of it.
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