Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Pony Book does romance

I was reading Christine Pullein-Thompson's The Impossible Horse recently, which I hadn't read in quite a while: mainly because it wasn't a book I remembered with much affection. However, on re-reading it I enjoyed it much more, and wondered why this was.

When I started senior school at the age of 11, all my friends loved ponies and that was what we talked about. However, when we came back for the second year (what is now year 8), it was as though someone had waved a magic wand. Only a few of us still wanted to obsess about ponies: with all the others it was boys, boys, boys. I was completely horrified by this: there were a few (a very few) boys at the stables but they were generally very wet and tended to cry when they fell off, which I regarded with contempt. We were generally a very female family, and I didn't meet boys really much at all: school was all girls. So, I decided firmly that I was going to stick with ponies, and so I did, for years (you will be able to tell, from the fact that I am married, that my resolution did eventually give out).

But this, I think, is why I didn't like The Impossible Horse. It wasn't my dream. To have a pony was; a boyfriend would have petrified me. I wonder if this was why CPT wrote this book under a pseudonym - Christine Keir - as it was aimed for a very different market.

I read Pony Club Camp, with its romance between Noel and Henry when I was much older, and I loved it, mainly because it was so very lightly drawn. Heartland is much more overt: the relationship between the heroine and her boyfriend is right there at the heart of the books, but then American pony books were always much more upfront about romance, even in the 1950s.

I've been trying to remember if there's even the merest hint of romance in the Jill books. Certainly as far as Jill and Ann are concerned there isn't. In fact, the books are strangely short on the portrayal of normal relationships. It's like the Archers in a way - there are so many characters who simply don't seem to appear. How about Mrs Cholly-Sawcutt? And Mr Darcy? And Mr Derry? Jill's father of course was killed off before the books started.

The only marriage I can think of where both partners appear is that of Martin's parents.

The vast majority of women in the book appear without their husbands, even if they do presumably have them, or are spinsters.

But the Jill books are undoubtedly the most popular section on my website - by really quite a long way, so maybe this complete absence of romance; the safety of predictable relationships; is what most children actually want.

7 comments:

Vanessa said...

Re the Jill books, I always rather thought (well in later life at any rate) that Jill's mother (tragic war widow) and Martin (heroic crippled fighter pilot) might be rather a good couple.

Birte said...

Another married couple in the Jill books is Jill's friend Wendy Mead's parents, pictured in Caney's illustration on page 35 in Jill's Pony Trek.

Jane said...

Vanessa - yes, I must admit my thoughts go the same way now, but they certainly didn't then! I wonder if RF contemplated it?

Birte - yes, I'd forgotten the Meads. They do both appear, don't they? How about Diana's parents? I only seem to remember her father, but may well be wrong.

Gillian said...

I didn't read 'The Impossible Horse' until I was an adult, and always enjoyed it. I like that it dealt with her first romance but without overdoing things. It's blended nicely into the story of the horse. (I can recall the name of 2 horses and the young man, but not the heroine)
The heroine is moving into a different phase of her life, not just developing her business of re-schooling hores, but dressing more as a grown-up woman, and having adult relationships with others. She grows and develops as a person, which Jill never really does (much as I love the Jill books).

It seems that getting a perm is a rite-of-passage for young women in 50's/60's books. I think the girl in 'The Impossible Horse' does - or at least has a 'set'. Sandy has a light perm for the Hunt Ball in 'Goodbye to Hounds' and Noel is still getting used to her new perm at the beginning of 'Pony Club Camp', when she's left school.

Jane said...

Gillian - yes, you're right about the perm. I hadn't thought of that (and doesn't Jill have a perm, or at least a new hairdo, at some point?) Certainly in the Caney illustrations Jill goes short at some point.

Interestingly, in some of the Knight reprints they have - not particularly well - removed Jill's plaits in some of the earlier books.

mutterings and meanderings said...

I agree with Vanessa about Jill's 'mummy' and Martin.

I always had the impression Mr Dracy was dead...

And, as for Jill, I reckon she had a bit of a thing for one of the boys in Jill's Riding Club, whose name I'm currently forgetting ..(the one who says he likes black horses and black cars best)

Jill has her hair chopped off in an Italian style in Rosettes for Jill and the Cortmans tell her no one will see it at the show cos she'll be wearing a hat. I think she's having her hair cut while they're out laming Black Boy.

Jane said...

M&M - great to hear from you again. Is it John in Riding Club? I think it's one of those things you'd notice as an adult, but not as a child.

So, did Jill marry John? Or did she become Mrs Cholly-Sawcutt? I rather fancy the idea of her as Mrs C-S myself. Jill has renounced the secretarial course (May C-S was desparate to escape the ponies at home so took Jill's place) and Jill returned to the long-promised job. And what happened then?