Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: Arthur Ransome on the Broads

Previously I reviewed Ransome's "Radundra's First Cruise" and alas found it seriously boring.

It was a bit like having to listen to someone's holiday story about this great taverna where the owner was such a character and would give them free retsina .... you really had to be there otherwise it was all a bit switch off.

But Arthur Ransome on the Broads by Roger Wardale I rather enjoyed. Partly because it was short, summarising the numerous visits rather than describing each tack, but mostly as it gave an insight into the character and ways of the Broads in the 1930s and how the books came to be written.

Both Coot Club and The Big Six came from his holidays there and you can see the elements emerge, the different types of boats: punts, dinghies, racing yachts, wherries, motor cruisers, motor tugs.... all were there in the diaries and came alive in the stories. Tom's father was a GP and Ransome was to have not one but three medical emergencies on his trip, namely bang to head, appendicitis and hernia so did indeed get to know the local doctor well. There were missed telegrams, storms in Broads, fish caught, falling in (a lot), Horning, bird watching, eel catching, pirate flags, racing....

The backgrounds to the books were especially interesting - such as how The Big Six was almost called The Death and Glories, which to be honest would have worked a lot better as The Big Six needs a certain amount of explaining now.

There were some intriguing insights into Ransome's relationship to his wife Evgena, who seemed somewhere between formidable, domineering even, summoning him with a sharp blow on her whistle!

There was a mysterious reference to how they "turned out to watch the eclipse of the sun" during the 1939 trip which I'm struggling to match with astronomical references - any suggestions?

Overall a useful reference for those interested in Ransome's sailing and writing without having to go through all the original sources.

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