Wildcat Island – Books and Places Part 2

I have already blogged about my hero, Nancy, from Swallows and Amazons here. In many ways for me this may be the ultimate children’s adventure:

Pirates, natives (adults), exploration, tension, treasure, scary moments, sailing, camping, humiliation, exhilaration, excitement, conflict, peace-making, new enemies, new friends and above all – childhood independence.

In Swallows and Amazons the protagonists inhabit two worlds. In the first they are four family members (aged 7-14) bound by the usual frustrations that siblings would have on holiday in the Lake District with their mother and baby sister. As sailors the children refer to each other as Captain John, Mate Susan, Able Seaman Titty and the Boy Roger. Sailing on Coniston Water in the English Lake District (which they simply call the Sea) they meet up with the Blackett girls, Ruth and Peggy. The girls see themselves as pirates and call themselves the Amazons. Their uncle Jim (alias Captain Flint) says that pirates are ruthless. So Ruth goes as Captain Nancy, and her sister is Mate Peggy. The Walkers discover Swallow, a small sailing dingy ocean-going schooner in which they sail on to Wild Cat Island and set up base camp, where lemonade becomes Grog and corned beef transforms into Pemmican.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With their island base established, the adventures can begin, in quick succession – the sorts of adventures I longed for as a child. On Wildcat Island children can camp, swim, fish cook and explore far from all adult eyes (actually the adults do keep a careful, if distant, eye out for them).

Given that the book was published before WWII, it has aged very kindly. Arthur Ransome’s conversational style, though a little archaic, doesn’t feel like a dated old black and white film. Yes, all relationships remain completely platonic, when I suspect a modern version would have had the hint at least of something going on between John and Nancy. But, sibling rivalry and enemy turned ally relationships among the children, are superbly captured by Ransome. Considering the era, there is a lot of gender equality too. The book is wholesome, innocent and simple, no longer very PC, but I challenge a young reader to read this book and not be begging his/her mother for a dinghy and sailing lessons and secretly dreaming of his/her own island adventure. I think Wildcat Island can offer a viable alternative to Hogwarts any day!

I found some contemporary reviews  for you here: http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/rev_sa.htm

 

Peel Island - Coniston Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My enduring fascination with island life was birthed in these 400 pages, aged 9. My grandparents lived in the Lake District, which of course only stimulated my interest more for a book set in and around Coniston Water and Lake Windermere. It wasn’t until I was 17, I think, and had gone up climbing in the Lakes with a boyfriend, that I fulfilled my childhood dream of visiting the island. Peel Island is considered to be the original of the fictional Wild Cat Island. Taqui Altounyan, sister of Roger Altounyan and inspiration for one of the characters in Swallows and Amazons, described Peel Island in her semi-biographical novel In Aleppo Once as “like a green tuffet, sitting in the water, the trees covering the rocks”. The campsite, the secret harbor, Octopus Lagoon can all be explored and fuel further a child’s imagination. From Robinson Crueso to Anne of the Island, I have been reading Island stories ever since!

So tell me where have you been or what have you visited because of a book you have read?

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8 Responses to Wildcat Island – Books and Places Part 2

  1. Diane says:

    Oh now Joanna, Swallows and Amazons, reminds me so much of “The Famous Five” series that I loved as a child and teen.
    Also loved “Adventure Island”. Maybe thats why I like adventure filled holidays…lol.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    You had a rich and lively childhood that allowed you to explore books written nearby. The Swallows and Amazons sounds like something that would have let my imagination to soar. I’m envious, you lived near the islands the stories were based on and could later visit the island. Love the photo.

    I grew up with Little House in the Prairie Series, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin, The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking (adored), and the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables — some stll favorite today. But never visited any sites. I always felt like I saw the world through books and could be anything or anyone I wanted to be.

    Nice post.

    Pat

    • Joanna says:

      It’s such a shame we cannot visit the dugout in ‘On the Banks of Plum Creek,” in Minnesota or the Little house in the Big Woods in Wisconsin. I suppose there is a Laura Ingalls wilder museum somewhere in the US?

  3. Yes, Joanna, there is a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum — http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/

    I have made two pilgrimages to Green Gables country, Prince Edward Island. The first was the best — I was with a friend who loved the books as much as I did, in fact, when we were young we used to pretend that I was Anne and she was Diana. I strongly urge anyone who loves L.M. Montgomery’s books to visit PEI. (When I have my photos back in order, sometime this fall, I’ll do a blog post about this!) Even in Halifax, we found places that L.M.M. had referred to during Anne’s time at Redmond.

    I also made a pilgrimage to Charing Cross Road in London, and took a picture of the plaque outside the shop where once stood the bookshop made famous in Helene Hanff’s “84 Charing Cross Road” (one of my favorite books of all time).

    I haven’t yet visited Waskesiu in Saskatchewan (I’m almost ashamed to admit that!) but if ever I do visit there, I know I will be thinking of Taylor from “Wild Orchid” at every turn.

    • Joanna says:

      Thanks for the museum info, Beth.

      Despite having been to New Brunswick 3 times, I still haven’t been to PE island due to it being mid winter each time. This is most certainly a pilgrimage I wish to make. What fun to do it with another Montgomery fan.

      Aha Beth, Charing Cross Road too :), I can really see that you enjoy book inspired travel as much as I!

      Actually, as I wrote these posts I was thinking what book have I read recently that has made me think “I would love to go there”? Well, came up with Waskesiu and Wild Orchid. I love the outdoors, as you know, and I loved Bev’s descriptions on the walks Taylor takes.

  4. Pingback: The Arts and Books on Vacation, part one: DANCE | THE STARBORN REVUE

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