My Book Story: Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome
The book which opened doors/pages for me was Pigeon Post, one of the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series by Arthur Ransome. It was a birthday present and, judging by my handwriting in the front – ‘If this book should dare to roam, Box its ears and send it home’ – written in ink with my first fountain pen, I judge it to have been 1969-1970. This first Puffin edition was published in 1969 though Ransome wrote it in 1936. To me it is timeless. It was the gateway to the whole series which still, to this day, have an important place on my bookshelves and are picked up on days when I am feeling ill or vulnerable and need to retreat to a place of familiarity.
The Swallows and the Amazons are two sets of children – the Walkers and the Blacketts – who come together each summer for holidays and adventures in the Lake District. These were ideal books for me – the farmer’s daughter, a tomboy, who loved stories, was writing stories, had an over-active imagination, and longed to be allowed to go sailing with my brother in his dinghy on the cold North Sea. I wanted to be Nancy, the leader of the Amazons, she was the strong one, brave, and decisive [no female stereotyping for the Amazons, though Susan Walker is deemed the sensible adult and clucks over food and blankets].
In Pigeon Post, the Walkers and the Blacketts trek into the hills, prospecting for gold, where they run into all sorts of problems, not the least of which is a suspicious character they call Squashy Hat: is he a rival gold prospector, or a spy?
The story is timeless, as usual Ransome slips in all kinds of useful information – survival skills, sailing, nature, human relationships, chemistry, mining – and the children are brave, adventurous and unafraid to try new things.
There is something addictive about these books. Just writing about PP makes me want to read it again, though like any serial addict I will start with book one, Swallows and Amazons, and work my way in order through the series. The anticipation of having a whole series to read is like contemplating eating a whole chocolate bar to yourself.
Author Sandra Danby lives in England and Spain. She turned her childhood love of stories into an English degree and became a journalist. She now writes fiction full-time. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Ignoring Gravity is her first novel. Her next novel, second in the series about ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’, is Connectedness [to be published in 2015].
Watch the book trailer for Ignoring Gravity: http://youtu.be/jpzWKR4gx8I
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