Friday, 10 January 2014

PBOTD: January 10th, Caroline Akrill - Flying Changes

Today's pony story is a world away from the safe sunlit uplands where the only worry you might have is what colour rosette you'll collar at the local gymkhana. Flying Changes was aimed at a different audience: one who wouldn't shy away from full blown disaster.

Author Caroline Akrill started her writing career as a journalist for PONY Magazine, and contributed a serialised story to it about the showing world. PONY editor Michael Williams encouraged Caroline to get the story published, and it was, but not until she'd written another story about the same characters, I'd Rather Not Gallop (1975). The series was written with the brio and humour that characterised Caroline's articles, and was followed by the immensely successful Eventer series, which saw heroine Elaine try and achieve her ambitions to become a top class eventer despite struggling with the twin disadvantages of having absolutely no money, and employers, in the shape of the Fane sisters, who were enough to scupper anyone's career before hoof had been put to dressage arena.

Flying Changes (1985) was a radical departure from the humour of her earlier novels. It is a story of obsession and disaster, and is a wrenching portrait of a sister who can do nothing to heave her brother away from the path he's set on treading. Hero Oliver is passionate, brilliant, cruel, and a wonderful rider. He struck a deep chord in the heart of his teenage readership. Caroline said,  “I received more mail about Flying Changes than any other book. Oliver made quite an impact on the girls. I remember one reader writing in despair ‘I look for him everywhere, everywhere I go, every show, every dressage event, I look for him. I just know he’s there somewhere.’” 

And perhaps he is, in some dark and destructive dressage world.

The J A Allen printing, 1989
Dark as it is, the book is not the one Caroline originally wrote. Her publishers were expecting wit and dash, and were appalled. The novel as it was published has had many of the darker bits expunged, and it would be interesting to read the original version. Caroline has re-issued the book in ebook format, but as far as I know, it's with the original text.

The original was published by Arlington, and a very similar version appeared in paperback, in the J A Allen Equestrian Fiction series. Caroline went on to work for J A Allen as Chief Executive, and one of her proudest achievements was this excellent series of pony stories for the older reader.

You can read more about the J A Allen Equestrian fiction series here, and more about the author and her books here.

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