Saturday, 31 December 2016

Swallows and Amazons.. a review

It is probably a little known fact that Steve the Wargamer (for that is I, a pen name I took from my other interest ) developed a love of sailing purely as a result of Arthur Ransome ... seriously... I have no other explanation for the fact that I have always wanted to sail, own boats, and be on the water since an early age...

I must have discovered Ransome when I was about 11 or 12? So over forty mumble mumble years ago..  and I devoured them...  repeatedly... and in fact I still read them now.

The books hark back to a quieter time, when kids were allowed out to have real adventures, before mobile phones/computers and all the other "labour saving" bolleaux that now infests our every activity, existed..

Ransome wrote a number of children's sailing books which featured the Swallows (the Walker family children) and the Amazons (the Blacketts).. he also wrote a few featuring the Callum children (Dot and Dorothea) who featured in the Swallows and Amazons books, but also featured in a  couple of stories Ransome wrote set in the Norfolk Broads - the majority of the books though were set in the Lake District and featured the Walkers and the Blacketts and their sailing and camping based adventures...

Which is a long preamble with the aim of pointing out that I had very high expectations of this film based on a life long love of the books.

So this is the film of the first book, and I'll say up front, I do hope the company responsible please please please makes some more, as I thought the film was extraordinarily good..

Set in the mid-30's (which is slightly later than the book but not enough to make a difference, and by the way the period detail in the film is fantastic) the book is about the first meeting of the Swallows and the Amazons, while the Swallows are camping on an island in the middle of the lake...  there is the same back story of Captain Flint (the Amazons Uncle Jim who lives on a houseboat) as in the book, there is also the same story of the "war" between the Swallows and Amazons over the island, and the midnight raids to capture each other boats..  so far, so very much like the book..  and the boats and the sailing clips were really good....

What the film has done though, is to also put in a sub plot where Uncle Jim is being hunted by a couple of Russian spies...  not in the book, and a lot of people have got quite hung up on it, but I thought it fitted well and was quite clever - Ransome himself was alleged to have been involved in Russian politics (he lived there for a time and was married to a Russian). It didn't overwhelm the original story, and I thought it was a clever way of explaining the theft from the houseboat (which in the book was just burglars)...

An excellent film - well worth a watch - 9/10


  1. The reach of Arthur Ransomes stories are world wide. I read all his books while growing up in Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand, and his influence has been pretty consistent over the years. The children and their adventures have a universal appeal and are easily related to - which is a contrast to another childrens sailing series 'The Green Sailors' (12 books) by Gilbert Hackforth Jones whose influence on me was very pervasive at the time but the characters less relatable being a bit 'posh' for this working class boy - nevertheless I enjoyed them immensely - BUT! its Arthur Ransomes childrens books I re-read as an adult (I have a new hard cover set complete with book jackets covered in AR's unique artwork).
    I have read about the new Swallows and Amazon film - can't wait to see it!

    1. Just have to hope it reaches our far flung shores Alden...

    2. Watcha chaps- been and gone in the cinema here, so I was watching on DVD... I'm sure Mr Amazon delivers to NZ... :o))

  2. Steve - it can be problematic with DVDs - they need to be for 'Region 4' and this is not always apparent when ordering - but if there is a S & A DVD in Region 4 format then this certainly is the way to go.