Books of Influence

Jan - WritingI received a “vaguebook” meme  recently asking folks to “Name fifteen authors who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you”.

This is surprisingly hard to do.

Yes there are many writer who I admire greatly and who possibly, even probably, had some input on my own humble efforts as a writer in my turn.  But how many books were able to influence  me as a person?

One candidate is Arthur Ransome.

Nancy_Blackett_(Nancy)Why? Because he created Captain Nancy – aka Ruth Blackett.




Now I have heard it said that readers back in the day either loved Blyton or  Ransome  but seldom both. I was one of the few who devoured books from each with equal passion.

Five_on_a_Treasure_Island_(novel)_coverartI read Blyton’s ‘Five’, ‘Seven’, Adventure and ‘School’ books avidly, and of course  I had a soft spot for ‘George’ – owner of Timmy the dog and all round star of the twenty-one Famous Five books.



swallowsamazonsBy contrast the Swallows and Amazons series lasted for just twelve, yet it was Captain Nancy who stuck with me.

At first glance George and Nancy seem to be very similar characters. Both were rather spiky personalities, angry at the world. Both were described by  that patronising term ‘Tomboys’.

Given the era in which she was written I suspect Blyton intended George’s anger and frustration to stem from the social strictures placed on all females of the time. (Blyton  was quoted as saying that she saw her younger self in that character.)  George ultimately  trotted off to boarding school with prissy cousin Anne.

Nancy was every bit as angry  but looked the world square in the eye and never wanted to be anything but herself. She was brought up in a single parent family, which made her more self-sufficient. Her mother was no push over but even she was hard pressed to control her strong-willed elder child. Nancy grabbed life by the scruff and gave it a damned good shake.

scarabCaptain Nancy  cared for others yet never allowed herself to be sidelined by the (gender) expectations prevalent in that era.  She met the world on her own terms and assumed a parity with Captain John without any need to be anything other than herself. She was a role model for a troubled child to a  far greater degree than was realised at the time.  Captain Nancy was, and remains,  my abiding hero.


2 responses to “Books of Influence

  1. Reblogged this on Misha Herwin and commented:
    I’m squarely in the Blyton camp, but Jan’s blog has almost convinced me to take another look at Captain Nancy.


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