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The Last Englishman: the double life of Arthur Ransome by Roland Chambers

The Last Englishman:  the double life of Arthur Ransome  by Roland Chambers is a biography of one of the British Empire’s favorite children’s authors, Arthur Ransome.  Best known for his Swallows & Amazons series, first published in 1930 and extending to some 12 titles by 1947, the books feature adventures by groups of children almost all during the school holidays and mostly in England and Scotland, between the two World Wars. The stories revolve around outdoor activities, especially sailing. The series affected a whole generation’s view of holidays, helped to create the national image of the English Lake District and added Ransome’s name to the select list of classic British children’s authors.  It’s somewhat unlikely then, that one would consider a beloved children’s author to have a ‘double life’!  Chambers makes his case, exploring Ransome’s journalist years in pre and post- revolutionary Russia.  For in addition to his enduring fame as a children’s writer, Ransome was the foremost expert on Russia during World War 1.  There’s considerable debate about Ransome’s revolutionary leanings, and the fact that he eventually married Trotsky’s secretary adds to this complex man’s story.  Whether or not Ransome had mixed loyalties, Chambers does draw a detailed story of Ransome’s life and that of England and Russia in the early 20th century.  A fascinating read.   Ransome remains popular today as evidenced by the British-based group, The Arthur Ransome Society,  which has an international membership.

Amy P.

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