"Swallows and Amazons" (1930) is the first book in the much-loved series by Arthur Ransome. The book is set in the Lake District, and covers the adventures of the Walker children as they set up camp during the summer holidays on an island on the lake. They become acquainted with the Blackett girls who live locally, and also with the girls' uncle.
I have read and re-read the books from a young age, initially my mother's copies which were green-bound and dating from wartime. The books made a deep impression on me, the poems and shanties they quote are how I know certain poems (like Stout Cortez looking out from a Peak in Darien.) They are books I wish I could live in, to share the memorable stories that the children live.
Not a lot happens in the books really. But what does happen is turned into the enchanting and adventurous, particularly by Nancy Blackett who plays a pivotal role in many of the books. Ransome's stories reawaken the sleeping child in me, reawaken the ability to find wonder in the small things. A lot happens in the books really. There are friendships and distrust and misunderstandings and disappointments and reconciliations and rejoicings.
Arthur Ransome had practical experience of the sailing and camping in the book and this shows in the vivid descriptions of what the children do. "Swallows and Amazons" is both a story of adventure and also a handbook on how to sail, how to camp, how to have adventure. The level of detail makes the books really come alive, really become real to the reader. And so every so often I reread them - and just wish I could have a holiday with John, Susan, Titty, Roger, Nancy, and Peggy.