Thursday, 13 February 2014

PBOTD: 13th February, Mary Oldham - A Dream of Horses

Did you dream of a life with horses once you were finally free of the shackles of school? I did. I read those stories where children took over the running of the riding school after an accident or illness conveniently carried the owner off, and I was absolutely sure I could do just as well as they could. If that failed to happen, and I was realistic enough to work out that the convenient illness didn't actually happen that often, and even if it did, there wasn't a huge likelihood I'd be on the scene to help out, well then I'd go on and ride for someone - my dreams were a bit vague on exactly who this would be, but I would show jump my way round the country.

Harrap first edition,1968, illus Robert Hodgson
My parents were beyond appalled by this plan, and put their foot down firmly. We had careers interviews at school, at which we were supposed to turn up complete with a plan for our future. Without horses, of course, I had none, so in desperation, announced (to the intense surprise of both school and my mother) that I would be a bookbinder. Well, I became a bookseller, and I earn my living by writing and editing, so I suppose I was in the right general field.

I never did work with horses, and from my advanced age now, I don't think I really mind. It's the dream of course, when you're a pony obsessed child, and there are books around that will feed that dream, and also provide a bit of balance. Mary Oldham's A Dream of Horses is about just that thing. Heroine Diana Lynch has saved and saved for a horse, and finally buys one, who's both sick, and it turns out, in foal. Besides her horse obsession, Diana has the rather more achievable ambition to be a librarian, and at the end of the book, she's faced with the choice of whether to go for a horsey career with Felix de Vries, the owner of the stables where she keeps her mare, or train as a librarian.

Diana made the choice so many of us must have made. I didn't read this book as a child, but I wonder what I'd have thought of it if I had. I expect I'd have been bitterly disappointed, love the library with a passion though I did, but reading it as an adult I felt a jolt of recognition for Diana and her dilemma.

The book was published just the once in the UK, by Harrap in 1969. It was republished in America in 1969, with the less than harmonious title A Horse for Her.

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There's more on Mary Oldham and her books on my website.

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