Rosemary Sutcliff, Heather, Oak, and Olive: Three Stories (1971)
This slim collection of stories by Rosemary Sutcliff takes us to three different historical settings — tribal Wales, Roman Britain, and ancient Greece — with the author’s characteristically vivid sense of place and time. In each story, a pair of young people forges bonds of loyalty and friendship that go against custom and circumstance.
I enjoyed all the stories, but the third one, “A Crown of Wild Olive,” was the one that stood out for me. This tale of an Athenian boy and a Spartan boy competing in the Olympic games was subtle and gracefully written, and gave a true sense of what such an experience might have been like. The ending brought the stories to a close in a poignant and thoughtful way.
Sensitive line drawings throughout by Victor Ambrus complement the text beautifully. The cover and typography are also nicely done. This is a small delight for fans of Rosemary Sutcliff and historical fiction, and I’m glad it’s been brought back into print.
The publisher, Paul Dry Books, is one that I had not come across before, and I’m intrigued by its eclectic, intelligent list. Heather, Oak, and Olive is the latest entry in the “Nautilus” series of reprints of forgotten classics for young people. Definitely worth a look, if you’re interested in discovering treasures from the past that go beyond the everyday bestsellers.