Author: Rosemary Sutcliff
Major Themes: Britain, Cromwell, England, Royalist Civil War
Synopsis: When two boys who have been as close as brothers find their loyalties on opposite sides of the war between King Charles and Cromwell, will they ever be able to be friends again?
I bought Simon a few months ago, simply because I’ve enjoyed other books by this author. She has done a masterful job of bringing Roman Britain to life in a trilogy we read aloud together and thoroughly enjoyed. I had no idea where or when this book was set, but decided to give it a try. I found it quite interesting, but I’m not sure I’ll read it aloud—too many books to choose from!
Simon and Amias are the best of friends. They do everything together, and will soon be going away to school together. There is only one subject they don’t agree on, and they simply don’t talk about it: Amias’s father, Doctor Hannaford, supports the King, and Simon’s father, a farmer, supports Parliament. As the dispute between King Charles and Parliament, headed by Cromwell, heats up in the mid 1600s in England, will the boys be able to remain close friends? What happens when they meet in battle, in opposing armies?
I knew the basic facts about the Royalist Civil War in England, from 1642-1646, before I read Simon. I knew that King Charles ended up defeated and that Cromwell, and Parliament, ruled England for about 10 years. However, Simon brought this horrible civil war to life for me. The main historical characters that we normally hear about, King Charles and Cromwell, are only mentioned in passing; the war is seen almost entirely through Simon’s eyes. This book is a good way to make that war memorable, but as a story it’s not overly great, in my opinion. Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain books are great and hard to put down, but Simon isn’t quite of their calibre. If you’re studying English history, though, and want to spend a few days or week or two on this time period, this would be a good resource. I did like the way the author portrayed what a revengeful spirit does to a person, and also the picture of true friendship and love that was shown.
WARNING: This is a war story. As such, there is violence throughout, as well as some lying to avoid capture.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above