Swallowdaleby Arthur Ransome
Series: Swallows and Amazons #2
448 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Esprit
Slow moving, but fun and generally clean.
PlotIt’s a year later, and the Swallows – John, Susan, Titty, and Roger Walker – are back! They’re ready for more sailing on the lake and adventures with Amazon pirates Nancy and Peggy Blackett. This time, however, there’s a catch: Nancy and Peggy’s great-aunt is visiting, and she doesn’t approve of the Amazons’ wildness. Things quickly go from bad to worse: the Swallow is shipwrecked. Left without a boat, the Swallows head for the moors above the lake.
Despite their situation, the children manage to have a passel of adventures, most of them involved with Nancy’s schemes to escape the GA’s controlling ways – surprise attacks, secret escapes, climbing Kanchenjunga, and getting lost in a thick sea fog. Still, they miss Swallow, and that great aunt is very much in the way…
MoralityGenerally, the Swallows are great examples of integrity: both John and Susan are very responsible and greatly respect their parents and other authorities. This is sometimes contrasted with the Amazons, who think people like the great-aunt, though perhaps worthy of fear, don’t deserve any respect, even if they are authority. The Swallows wonder at how Nancy goes out of her way to disobey the GA, but it’s never actually described as wrong.
Roger spends a night alone with an old man they’ve only met twice. Readers might see this as an awkward and risky situation.
Spiritual ContentTitty, wanting to rid the Amazons of the great-aunt, tries to use voodoo methods to make the GA uncomfortable enough to leave. Susan tells her that it won’t work, and that “Anyway it’s a bad sort of magic.” Titty retorts that it would be good magic if it made the great-aunt go away.
(Spoilers) Titty goes ahead with it while the others are gone. She makes a figurine out of candle grease and tries to say a “spell” which will make the figurine become the great-aunt. She ends up thinking she has accidentally killed her. Here, Susan and Mother take the part of common sense and explain to Titty that voodoo is wrong and that her attempts didn’t do any physical harm. Titty remains unsure.
ViolenceThe shipwreck is described, but it’s pretty non-violent. There are minor scrapes and bruises and at one point someone twists their ankle. Titty drops a candle-grease figurine into a fire and believes she has killed the great-aunt.
Drug and Alcohol ContentWhen drinking lemonade or ginger beer together, the children call it “grog.” Empty tobacco tins are used for storage; the children mention that their father and uncle smoke cigars.
Sexual ContentThere is a chaste romance going on behind the scenes between a friend of the Swallows and a woodman. At one point, on a rainy night, John strips to go loosen his tent ropes, but it is to keep his clothes from being soaked. It’s not told that anyone sees him.
Crude or Profane Language or ContentNancy uses mock “swear” phrases, such as “barbecued billygoats”. Name-calling includes “donkeys,” “galoot,” and “tame galoot,” used rather often.
ConclusionWritten in the 1930s, the Swallows and Amazons books move slower than modern books, but they are no less fun. Sailing is described in detail and can sometimes be confusing for those who haven’t gone sailing before, but these descriptions also provide a great opportunity to learn vocabulary such as cleat, painter, warp, boom, jibe, etc. Probably the only caution in this book would be the voodoo scene.
|Written for Age:||11-12|
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