WARNING: Contains spoilers!
It's been a very long while since I read a book which left me so disquieted, so much so that I've been thinking about it all weekend, and wondering why on earth the book for me didn't quite gel. I think light has finally dawned. It's the fairy godmother character, Mrs Smith, who bothers me; or to pin it down a bit, her position as fairy godmother and enabler of the heroine's dreams.
I find the beginning and the end of the book credible; the gritty reality of East London at the beginning and the heroine's struggle to even ride, let alone have a horse, and odd though it might seem, the Badminton triumph at the end. Some people just are that good. And it is possible for people who come from nothing to succeed in a world notorious for needing wads of cash to do so.
Mrs Smith is someone the heroine already knows; she goes to tea with her regularly. Mrs Smith had a horsy background herself, but lost her money through a disastrous marriage. She sees the ability and promise of success in Casey, and helps her by training her and giving her support. That I can entirely see.
What I don't see is the fact that it is Mrs Smith who turns out to be Casey's mystery benefactor - the one whose sponsorship takes her onto that other plane. In a novel which preaches hard graft, it seems odd that success depends on a wave of a magic wand; it's just a bit too much of a lottery win, an X factor unlikeliness. To me it says that yes, you can achieve the fairytale, but your hard work and talent will not be enough without that staggeringly unlikely stroke of good fortune.
I don't know. Am I being too puritanical about this? I wanted the heroine to succeed but in a way which would give hope to people who want to ride, not one which says you need to be lucky in your friends. I suppose the author gave herself a very short time frame: if your heroine is going to be the youngest Badminton winner ever, a more realistic, though lengthy, slog, round as a groom and rider in an eventing stable as she works her way up just isn't going to happen.
I'm puzzled still by why I personally feel so let down by this. I'm not a teenager, so I don't know if the book's readers are going to think well, this is all very well, but I know no Mrs Smith is going to happen for me, so really this horse business is all a dream, isn't it? Or what? How seriously will they take it? It's something I want, for horses to be more accessible (see the Ebony Horse Club in Brixton, and the Emile Faurie Foundation). When I read in my teenage years K M Peyton's Fly-by-Night, in which Ruth buys an unbroken pony and has a desperate struggle to keep him, I identified with Ruth (although I came from a solid middle class background, I knew there was no way I would ever have a pony) and her fight. What Ruth did I could see myself doing. Will readers of The One Dollar Horse see a way to achieve their dreams, or just a fairytale?
I must stop thinking about this, I really must.