New Reprint Review: Heather, Oak, and Olive

Rosemary Sutcliff, Heather, Oak, and Olive: Three Stories (1971)

HeatherOakOlive_72_largeThis 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.


10 thoughts on “New Reprint Review: Heather, Oak, and Olive

  1. The concept of this collection, with the common theme likening the stories sounds really interesting.

    I would think that in the wrong hands stories set in such diverse historical places could turn out very badly. Based upon your commentary that sounds like it was not the case here.

    I really like it when a book includes artwork.


    1. Rosemary Sutcliff is amazing at imagining herself (and us as readers) into the past. If you haven’t read her work I think you’d really enjoy it. This is just a short taster but the historical novels are wonderful!


  2. As far as Sutclifffe’s works, I’ve only read Eagle of the Ninth, which I enjoyed, so I’ve been wondering how to continue with her works. Something like this might be nice as they’re short and I don’t have a lot of time to read currently.


    1. It is short and very manageable if you don’t have the time to put into a longer novel. When you have the time for that, I recommend The Mark of the Horse Lord.


  3. I’ve been meaning to read Sutcliffe. Everyman just published Eagle of the Ninth, and I love their reissued classics. I’m not buying any books at the moment (!!!!) but I’m writing this one down for when the time comes again!


    1. I have the Folio Eagle of the Ninth in reserve (I bought it for my son but I have to read it first to check it out, right?) and I’m looking forward to that.


    1. I’m always happy when worthy authors from the past are reprinted for a new generation. The Chicago Review edition of Mark of the Horse Lord was also a great find.


  4. Thanks for the note about and link to Paul Dry Books — will go and explore! And Victor Ambrus was ever a favourite illustrator of mine: he even worked on archaeological reconstructions for the late much-lamented TV reality series Time Team, where archaeologists had three days to investigate a promising historical site.


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