Thursday, 23 January 2014

PBOTD: 23rd January, Mary Gervaise - A Pony of Your Own

Today's pony book is the first in Mary Gervaise's G for Georgia series. Mary Gervaise is an interesting author. I discovered (handily, after I'd written my book on the history of the pony book, Heroines on Horseback) that Mary Gervaise played a larger part in the genesis of the genre than I'd thought. In the 1930s, she's combining ponies with family and school adventure. The early books I've found, The Twins in the Third (1932), and The Dauntless Clan (1938) are neither of them classic pony adventure, but neither are they classic school or adventure stories either. They are, however, an attempt to use ponies in stories where they're not telling their own story.

Lutterworth first edition, 1950
What Mary Gervaise liked writing about best was families and their relationships. However her publishers badged her books to fit them into what genre was selling best: school or pony, it is families that are at the centre of the books. The first book in the Georgia series, A Pony of Your Own (1950) starts off with a dramatic horsey incident. Having established the heroine, Georgia (or Georgie) as a girl almost paralysed by her many fears, we see her managing to overcome them enough to sit on the head of a horse who has an accident outside her front door. 

Georgie's family are worried about her fears, and the way she faces (or doesn't face) life, so they make the time honoured decision of the British middle classes to solve the problem by sending it away to school. This of course also allowed Gervaise to make use of another genre she knew well, having started her career as a producer of school stories. Georgie is duly shipped off to the Grange School, but it's a boarding school with a difference, as much of its life is centred around riding and ponies, of which Georgie is unfortunately still terrified.

Armada paperback, 1969
Fortunately, she is able to overcome her fear, which was as well for the future of the series. It's interesting that the book doesn't really included any of those things considered central to a pony story: Georgie gets a donkey, not a pony, at first, and Spot is only given to her right at the end of the book. There is a gymkhana, but it's only there as a handy device to get the rest of the pupils, ponymad to a girl, off the scene so that Georgie is forced to confront her fears when she rescues the Headmistress's horse from a fire.

Armada paperback, 1973
It's the relationships between the girls that we see most of, and Gervaise succeeds in establishing them all firmly in our minds: nervous, but kind and moral Georgie, madcap Susan, and Georgie's twin brothers, Rough and Tough. 

Despite the book's lack of pony content, it was reprinted by Armada twice. The original had a dustjacket illustrated by E Herbert Whydale, and the Armada paperback which appeared in the 1950s is another with an uncredited artist. The last printing in the 1970s had a photographic cover.

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For much more on Mary Gervaise, see her page on my website



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