I found, in a corner of my university library I’d never seen before, a couple of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books I hadn’t read. This was one of them — the story of Boudicca, as told by her harper, interspersed with extracts from the letters of a Roman soldier to his mother. I think this is maybe the most female-centric of Sutcliff’s books that I can think of, and yet it’s told in the voice of a man, so there’s that. As with all Sutcliff’s books, it was readable and well-paced, and well-researched: there’s a poetry to it, too. The end made me choke up a little, even.
I don’t know why I didn’t like it more. I think there was just something eroticised about Boudicca’s war-making, something discomforting — which is appropriate, in a way, for a dark queen… But why does her power come most when she’s eroticised and her children violated?
In that sense, too, I found it more violent than most of Sutcliff’s work — more adult, I guess. There’s references to rape, seemingly on both sides, and there’s a lot of blood and guts.
I rarely give advice to parents in my reviews, but this time I feel it’s warranted. I wouldn’t go so far as to say prevent your children from reading it, but I do think you should read this one first and assess whether your child would be alright with reading it. It discomforts me, as an adult woman; as a child, I don’t know whether the references would have gone over my head or not, but I think I would have caught the horror of it anyway.