Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Reading Ransome

Like Arthur Ransome, I spent many glorious summer holidays as a child in the English Lake District. So, when Audible invited me to narrate Arthur Ransome’s classic series for children, I was delighted to hop on the train to Audible’s recording studios in Newark and read all twelve novels for them.

Beginning with Swallows and Amazons (1930) and ending with Great Northern (1947) I was transported back to an England where children get rid of their parents by chapter two and head off on sailing and camping adventures in the Lake District, the Norfolk Broads or the South China Seas. Whether they’re escaping from Black Jake in Peter Duck, literature’s only Latin-speaking Chinese pirate in Missee Lee, or the formidable Great Aunt in Picts & the Martyrs, the adventures are as engrossing and enchanting today as they were eighty years ago.

Arthur Ransome couldn’t have come from a world more different than the young engineer whose job it was check the sound levels and make sure I didn’t mispronounce "bowsprit" or "halyard." When he took Great Northern home one night saying, “I gotta know what happens next” — we were at the point when Dick is trying to save a rare bird’s egg from the wicked Mr. Jemmerling — I knew it wasn’t just me who had fallen under Ransome’s spell.

These days I live an all-American life just outside New York City. But since Ransome’s world reached into mine, I’ve been dreaming of sailing boats and creaking oars and lakes and sea and sea gulls and picnics and knapsacks and Pirate ships and buried treasure and tent pegs and charming English children asking each other to please pass the pemmican and the strawberry jam.

Accompanying Nancy, Peggy, John, Susan. Titty, Roger, Dick, Dorothea and Captain Flint word by word on all their adventures has been jolly good fun. I shall miss them.

[Alison Larkin is a comedienne, voice artist, and the author of The English American, a novel. Visit her website at www.alisonlarkin.com.]

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