Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 20, 2011

Opening Lines: Swords and Crowns and Rings, by Ruth Park (1977)

Swords and Crowns and Rings is among my favourite novels by Ruth Park (1917-2010); it won the Miles Franklin Award in 1977.

Ruth Park died earlier this year; to see my obituary, see here.

Swords and Crowns and Rings was published in 1977 after a long gap between novels.  After the early success of The Harp in the South (1948) and Poor Man’s Orange (1949) there were five more novels during the 1950s, but after that she focussed on writing radio scripts and children’s books for many years.

Swords and Crowns and Rings now appears to be out of print. Update Oct 2012 – not any more, see below!

These are the opening lines:

In a red weeping dawn the child was born at last. His mother gave a long cry of such peculiar poignancy that her husband, drowsing in the front room, started out of his chair and knocked the French china clock to the floor. This seemed to him to be the last straw. Tears squirted into his eys. The sleepless night, the awful anxiety of the day that had preceded it, the nightmarish dislocation of the routine, which was all that kept his irritable nerves on an even keel, were summed up in this one sharp, irremediable smash. He knelt amongst the lustrous shards and blubbered.

In the bedroom, Mrs Hanna, gasping and moaning, said, “What is it, what is it, doctor?”

“A boy, strong as an ox,” he replied shortly.

The nurse, a gentle maternal body, took the bloody bundle into the warm kitchen where she had already made preparations for the washing and clothing of the newborn. She had never seen such a one before, but she knew at once what his future was to be.   (p3)

So begins the tale of Jackie Hanna, who suffers many cruel swords before winning the crown and a ring…

To read my review of this wonderful book, click here.

Author: Ruth Park
Title: Swords and Crowns and Rings
Publisher: Michael Joseph, London, 1977 (First Edition)
ISBN: 0718116941
Source: Personal library, purchased from Diversity Books Mordialloc for only $7.00, which proves that bargains are indeed to be found in second-hand bookstores – good copies of this first edition (i.e. not ex-library) sell online for about $100!)

Swords and Crowns and Rings (Text Classics)Availability Update: fantastic news, Swords and Crowns and Rings is now available from Text Classics.
Fishpond: Swords and Crowns and Rings (Text Classics)


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