Thursday, 18 October 2012
Review: Victoria Eveleigh - A Stallion Called Midnight
Victoria Eveleigh: A Stallion Called Midnight
Orion, 2012, £4.99
Kobo, Kindle, £2.99
Victoria Eveleigh's website
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book
This book has been re-written for its publication by Orion (it was first published as Midnight on Lundy). I liked the original very much, and the new one is even better. It is set on the island of Lundy, during the 1960s, when Lundy was a much more isolated community than it is now. The only way of getting to the mainland was via boat, and if the weather was too bad, you were stuck, as the homesick and wretched Jenny finds out when she is unable to get back for half term.
Jenny, the book’s heroine, has lived on Lundy all her life. It is a very small community, and Jenny is facing a huge change. She is to leave Lundy, and go to boarding school on the mainland. The only experience she has of school is lessons with Mrs Hamilton; the only other children she sees the day visitors who appear in holiday time. She is dreading the change. Her passion in life is the Lundy ponies, particularly the stallion, Midnight. He has a rather mixed reputation, but Jenny has managed to ride him. She then makes the unfortunate discovery that ponies love sugar, and that Midnight loves it very much indeed. Unfortunately Midnight’s fondness for sugar results in things Jenny didn’t foresee. Now he knows that humans can have goodies, and after he terrorises a small boy in order to get his sweets, it is decided Midnight’s future lies off the island. Jenny is horrified. She manages to free Midnight, only to find out she has inadvertently signed his death warrant. If Midnight cannot be rehomed on the mainland, he has now become too dangerous to be allowed to run free, and must be shot. Jenny is distraught at what she has done; and tries to make amends.
Jenny has a daydream of staying on the island forever, with Midnight, but this book shows how Jenny’s dreams unravel, and how she starts to emerge from teenage self-absorption. Jenny learns that both people and animals have their own needs and wants; and that most important of lessons with animals: don’t assume that you know best what they need.
She has been thrown into a situation where everything is changing for her: she moves from a community of very mixed ages, where she knows everyone, to one where the only people to socialise with are girls of her own age, who already have their hierarchy and cliques well organised. School is a foreign country to Jenny. She doesn’t know how to join in, and she finds the girls and their sharply delineated groups confusing.
In the first incarnation of this book; I found the school part strongest. In this version, both halves are as good; the move between the sometimes claustrophobic world of school, and the freedom of Lundy, is seemlessly done. It’s a cracking read. Jenny is a vital and attractive heroine; never so silly you wince for her, but believably obtuse. As ever, Victoria Eveleigh has created a community which crackles with life.