Monday, 10 February 2014

PBOTD: 10th February, Brian Fairfax-Lucy - Ponies in the Valley

I was very tempted, when writing Heroines on Horseback, to use the original cover for Horses in the Valley as the cover illustration for my book, but that didn't quite happen. It's a classic of its type, and to me it expresses all the important elements of a pony book: you've got the girl feeding the ponies, and a focusing of the attention just on the girl and the horse and pony. The whole world is focused on them. 

OUP, 1941, illustrated Stanley Lloyd

I have to admit it is a while since I've read the story, so I'm not going to give an elaborate summary and analysis of it, because I can't. The book is, however, one of a type that became increasingly rare from the 1940s onwards: the story's told from the point of view of the horses. There are three horses in the story, Bear the black Shetland, Colonel the bay hunter, and a chestnut filly called Katharina. The house where they live is being rented out to Mrs Grantoun and her daughter Ann, who fortunately are horsey people. The tension comes from the horses' original owners' decision to sell the horses. Will Mrs Grantoun buy them? When she misses out on buying one, what will happen then?

Transworld (Scottie) reprint, paperback, 1955
The author, Brian Fairfax-Lucy, also wrote other children's books, including the excellent The Children of the House  which was set in his childhood home, Charlecote Parknow, incidentally, owned by the National Trust. Fairfax-Lucy was on firmer, and more successful ground, when writing historical stories, but The Horses in the Valley is still an interesting read.

The first edition appeared during World War II in 1941. It was reprinted by Scottie, an early paperback imprint of Collins, in 1955. These copies do not tend to survive well.

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For a bit more on the author, see his page on my website.

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